Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shepard's Pie (AIP friendly)


"What? A shepard's pie with flavor? I think I could eat the whole pan!"


Yes, this recipe is literal comfort food. By taking out the unnecessary eggs, grain, and dairy, the real ingredients are able to fully shine, making this shepard's pie anything but the usual. To be perfectly honest, I have never even had a shepard's pie, and if I have, it obviously didn't leave a lasting impression. Therefore, I wanted my recipe to be different so that people would remember it as being different from anything they have ever had. 



With bacon bits, chives, and a bit of cranberries thrown into the filling, this dish has all the flavors of a turkey dinner.  Ideally, you would serve it in a square casserole dish, however, all I had on hand at the moment was a large, rectangular pan.  Either way works, however, the bigger your dish, the harder it will be to smooth out the celery root puree over your meat mixture.  In the end, this dish is great as a make-ahead meal that is easily heated up when ready to be served. Because of this, you are able to spend your evening outside of the kitchen, doing whatever it is you love most. If for you that means being in the kitchen, then make a side salad. 




Shepard's Pie (AIP Friendly) 

Print Recipe
Ingredients
  • 2 lb celery root (celeriac) 
  • 4 tbsp lard
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 lb turkey 
  • 1 lb bacon 
  • 1 cup carrots - diced
  • 1 white onion (3/4 cup) 
  • 1 cup broccoli - chopped 
  • 1/4 cup cranberries - chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 3 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup of beef broth 
  • 2 tsbp sweet potato flour 
  • Chives
Process
  • Peel and chop celery root into like size chunks
  • Boil in a pot of water for 20 minutes
  • Once soft, drain celery root and place into a food processor.
  • Puree until smooth, then add coconut milk, 2 tbsp lard, 1/2 salt, and 2 tsp garlic powder.
  • Continue to process until mixture is creamed and fluffy. Set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 400 dg
  • Without waiting for it to heat up, put 4 slices of bacon in the oven on a baking dish, and let cook until super brown and crisp (25 minutes) *Ideally you will cook the bacon in the same dish as your pie. 
  • Once the bacon is done, remove and pat dry with paper towels and set the baking dish aside. 
  • While the bacon is cooking, slice the remaining bacon the short way and put in a large skillet on medium-low heat. 
  • While the bacon starts to render off its fat, diced up the carrot and place in the pan with the bacon. 
  • Next, finely chop up up onion and broccoli and add to the pan.
  • Either chop cranberries in half or leave whole and throw into the mixture as well. 
  • Once the veggies begin to soften, add turkey meat, thyme, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tsp salt.
  • Cover pan and put on low, allowing to simmer and sweat. 
  • In a small saucepan, make a rue by heating 2 tbsp lard and 2 tbsp sweet potato flour until melted and combined. 
  • Add beef stock and it let come to a boil, whisking for one minute, then pouring over your meat mixture. 
  • Once fully incorporated, pour meat in the bottom of a square baking dish.
  • Top with celery root puree, smoothing with the back of a wet spatula
  • Chop 4 remaining pieces of bacon into bit size pieces and crumble over the top of the pie.
  • Chop 1/4 cup chives and sprinkle over the pie as well.
  • When ready to eat, place pie in 400 dg oven for 20-25 minutes covered with tin foil until bubbling and warmed fully through. 


Enjoy!




Gabriella





Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Going Against the Grain



Because grains allowed civilization to flourish, industry to succeed, and thus allow companies to make profit, they have become the centerpiece of our standard diet.  Though whole grains are often viewed as necessary sources of dietary complex carbohydrates and fiber, it may surprise you to learn that we were not made to digest them, whether refined or not.  Over the past decade, many have found they they do better on a gluten-free diet, even if they have not been officially diagnosed celiac .  However, wheat products are not the only source of grain humans should avoid, as we are all actually grain-intolerant to some extent, due to harmful amounts of anti-nutrients present in these foods. Unlike “nutrients,” which benefit the body, “anti-nutrients” have the opposite effect, causing significant health complications in today’s grain-based world.

Lectins 

Grains, which are converted into sugar in the bloodstream, are incredibly dense sources of carbs that are unnecessary for living.  Not only does eating a diet heavy in carbohydrates cause a roller coaster effect on our blood sugar, but insulin levels are chronically elevated, thus setting the stage for inevitable health problems later down the road.  Besides the toxic glucose overload that grains (wheat, rice, millet, rye, sorghum, barley, oats, spelt, amaranth, etc…) provide our body, they also contain anti-nutrients known as lectins.  The two most harmful are known as “prolamins” and “agglutinins,” both of which are naturally occurring toxins that plants use as natural defense mechanisms against predators (UV rays, animals, and harmful bacteria).  When eaten, these proteins damage our intestinal wall by binding to the lining of the GI track, simultaneously inhibiting it from any remission of healing and repair. When this “leaky gut” develops, foreign food proteins escape into the bloodstream, causing an auto immune response where the body literally attacks itself. Due to “molecular mimicry,” lectins are also able to trick various organs outside of the GI track, such as nerve, liver, and thyroid cells, into using them in their normal function and routine.  Because of this, many mild-serious health conditions result, including thyroid and liver disease, fibromyalgia, obesity, heart burn, acid reflux, allergies, skin problems, asthma, autism, cognitives problems, and diabetes.  For these reasons, it is very important that those with an autoimmune disease seek to eliminate all sources of grains from their diet, as the lectin content can significantly exasperate their disorder. Lectins also are known for feeding E.Coli bacteria, binding to insulin receptor, and prompting insulin and leptin resistance, which in turn tricks the brain into believing it is starving (when in reality food being consumed is simply being sent directly to fat storage). In the end, the fact that foods high in these anti-nutrients (i.e. all grains and legumes) cause so much inflammation and trauma throughout the body, proves that they are unfamiliar and therefore unnecessary as part of the human diet.  

Phytates 

Without getting into too much detail, a second anti-nutrient found in all grains is “phytates,” the salt form of “phytic acid” found in plants.  These compounds bind to essential minerals in the body, causing severe nutrient and mineral deficiencies, as well as osteoporosis (a disease relatively absent before the advent of civilization).  Even if you have yet to suffer from one of these conditions, the belief that grains are “nutritious” (in any form), is simply an oxymoron, as the vitamins and minerals available are unable to be processed due to phytates inhibiting their absorption.  Because of phytates and lectins, even gluten-free foods can serve as problematic for individuals, as they are still filling the body with anti-nutrient dense carbohydrates.  


Wheat and Gluten 

Out of all the anti-nutrients found in grains, the most commonly known and demonized is gluten. This large, water-soluble protein is considered to be in the “prolamin” category of lectins, and is present in all wheat, rye, and barley.  Though only 1% of the population is officially diagnosed with celiac disease, it is estimated that more than 83% of individuals suffer from a noticeable sensitivity or severe intolerance. Symptoms range from GI, skin, and joint disorders, anemia, bone density loss, equilibrium problems, chronic migraines, learning disabilities, various nervous system issues, autoimmune disease, and even several cancers. All in all, gluten causes systemic inflammation throughout the body, acting as a precursor to chronic illness. However, the gluten protein in wheat products is not the only offender in today's world, but also the high amount of industrialization and engineering that has occurred over the past decades to create a drought resistant variety known as "dwarf wheat."  Now, not only does modern-day wheat include gluten, but it also has two incredibly harmful agents; wheat germ agglutination and gliadin protein. When eaten, gliadin binds to opioid receptors in the brain, causing a huge, abnormal stimulation of appetite, making the average person eat 400+ extra calories per day. Because of this, trying to eliminate wheat can seem literally impossible, as the body detoxes from this gluten-dependancy. However, once the body readjusts back to normal function, side effects will vanish, while digestion, elimination, immune function, and inflammation are sure to all improve. 

White or Wheat?


All anti-nutrients aside, another reasons grains are detrimental to the body is due to being an “acellular” carbohydrate source, meaning they are are too easily digestible and thus overwhelm and imbalance healthy gut bacteria. Due to this intensive carbohydrate load, glycogen stores are quickly filled up, turning any ingested calories immediately into inaccessible fat. (i.e. triglycerides).  Once a pattern of this eating is continued (as is the case for SAD), stress hormones are triggered to flood the body, which exhausts the adrenal system, pancreas, and immune system, simultaneously creating systemic inflammation, the precursor to all disease. Unlike the popular notion that “whole grains” are great sources of fiber and protein, these items are just as unnecessary as all processed  versions. The only difference in choosing “white” over “wheat,” is that the product is free from its bran and germ components, leaving only the starchy endosperm intact. Because whole grains are not as refined, they naturally contain higher amounts of previously discussed anti-nutrients; lectins, phytates, and gluten.  Though it is true that the more heavily processed grains cause an unhealthy, immediate spike in insulin, the same can be said for whole grains.  Despite the fact that the heightening of insulin happens over a longer period of time, the end result of these "whole" sources is exactly the same; toxic amounts of blood glucose, insulin resistance, fat storage, and chronic disease. 

Against the Grain 

For those who believe they absolutely "need" their carbs to function, there are plenty of paleo approved foods that allow for more than enough natural carb consumption. It is important to remember that overall tolerance of starchy vegetables and fruit will vary on the individual, which makes experimenting and learning how your own body reacts ultimately the best thing to do. Mega-calorie burners, such as endurance athletes, find that they do better on the "higher" end of the paleo carbohydrate spectrum, averaging around 100-150 grams per day.  If you are less active, trying to lose weight, or follow a more primal-aligned exercise pattern, 50-100 grams of carbs is quite satisfying, while also allowing for adequate amounts of protein and healthy fat. If you are not consuming fruit for their natural carb content, finding high antioxidant, low glycemic varieties such as berries and stone fruit (cherries, prunes, peaches, etc..), is always a great idea. It is also important to eat these fruits when in season and (or) grown locally, instead of foreign and imported varieties (i.e. strawberries the size of golf balls in the middle of winter). Of course, wild options are always the best, as these do not experience pesticides or premature aging, and thus have the highest nutritional value of all. 


Summary 

After touching on just a few of the reasons why grains are an unnecessary, it is quite clear what the inevitable consequence of their over-consumption is; disease.  With gluten being just one of the offenders, all grains take a tole on our body, resulting in a worn out, damaged, and helpless immune system. Though we obviously are able to "tolerate" grains for a certain extent of time, the rising number of chronic disease and illness serves as proof of our inability to uphold against these toxins. Just because the food industry claims we need them to survive, does not mean that living a grain-free lifestyle is impossible. Pasta, sandwich bread, wraps, and pizza, are all seen as cheap, efficient ways to feed the family. Yet there are many ways that make going grain-free just as affordable, if not cheaper, due to eliminating all high carb, processed food and drinks, while boosting caloric efficiency. It is true that frequent stops in the drive-through lane, dining out, and stocking up on pre-made frozen meals strips one's finances more than they are aware. Instead, emphasizing real food (i.e. protein, vegetables, fruit, nut/seeds, fat) while avoiding high profit (low nutrition) foods, will not only result in a lighter dent in your wallet, but also an improvement in overall health.  



Further Resources:









Gabriella





Isaiah 55:8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spiced Pumpkin Pie (AIP Friendly)


No Thanksgiving is complete with a pie.  After practically being in my 5th year of illness, I have come to terms that you don't actually have to participate in eating pie for the warmth of the oven and smell of cinnamon to make you feel all cozy and festive. This year, my parents, little brother and I will be spending Thanksgiving in Nashville with my older brother, close friends, and relatives from my father's side.  Because getting to experiment in the kitchen will not really be an option, I figured I would try making a new pie recipe while I was still home.  




It seems everyone has a favorite pie, whether it be apple, pumpkin, pecan, raspberry, or blueberry.  For some reason, pumpkin has always been my favorite.  There is just something about the creamy texture that has always reminded me somewhat of a lighter cheesecake.  Seriously, I would eat pumpkin pie everyday for breakfast if I could.  
Therefore, with Fall in full swing, an empty house, and a kitchen all to myself, I decided to take advantage of it all and brainstorm on a new pumpkin pie recipe.   The crust, I am in awe of, as it rolled out better than any "regular" crust I have ever worked with.  
Though I use half maple syrup and half date puree for the sweetener, you can easily skip the maple syrup and double the date mixture, or, if you don't have dates on hand, use all maple syrup. 
Because I cannot eat any type of carb or sugar on the Pk Protocol, I knew I had to make a pie that would pass "family inspection," yet still comply to the challenge of dietary restrictions.


This pie is Autoimmune Paleo-friendly, however, you would never know it.  Both my mom and dad dug in right away and loved every bite! Everyone (including friends outside of the family) thought it could be easily served to a group of people without anyone ever knowing it was any different than a pie full of regular sugar, dairy, and gluten.  The crust was noted as being exceptionally tasty, and the inside very creamy (without any eggs)! Therefore, as a way to hopefully make the pie crust less daunting to make, I have included step by step photos that guide you along in the process.  All in all, I am incredibly pleased and happy with this recipe, and I am sure you will be too. 


Spiced Pumpkin Pie 

Print Recipe
Ingredients 
  • 1 green plantain (1/2 cup puree) 
  • 6 fresh medjool dates - pitted
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato flour
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 7 tbsp lard - cold
  • 2 tbsp ice water
  • 1 tbsp maple sugar 
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp gelatin mixed in 6 tbsp water = 2 gelatin eggs 
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (or) 6 more pitted, medjool dates 
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Dash of cloves
  • Coconut or arrowroot flour for dusting.
Crust 
  • In a food processor, puree plantain until smooth, and transfer to a bowl for later use.
  • Next, pulse together sweet potato flour, arrowroot flour, coconut flour, salt, maple sugar, and 1/4 plantain puree until the mixture becomes crumbly.
  • Slowly pulse in lard 1 tbsp at a time, making sure not to over-mix
  • Add ice water and pulse until the mixture forms into a dough.
  • Scoop dough onto plastic wrap dusted with coconut flour and form into a large ball. *If dough is too sticky to handle, wrap up and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Once cool enough to handle, push dough down with fingers until a thick circle is formed, sprinkle with more coconut flour and flip over.
  • Dust the dough with coconut flour as needed, pressing out to around 12 inches wide, and flipping over once more, dusting with coconut flour. 
  • Next, dust a rolling pin and roll dough out until about 14 inches (about 1/4 cm thick), or bigger than the width of your pie plate.
  • Grease pie plate with 1 tbsp of lard.
  • Place pie plate upside over the dough and carefully flip over, making sure the pie plate stays in contact with the dough.
  • Press the dough down around the inside of the pie plate, crimping the sides, and poking holes in the bottom with a fork.
  • Bake in oven for 10 minutes and beginning to brown.
  • Take out of the oven and let cool while making the pie filling.
Pumpkin Pie Filling 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Pit dates and place in a bowl of hot water to soften for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Once soft, place in food processor and let run until the dates become a smooth paste.
  • Next, add pumpkin puree, remaining 1/4 cup plantain puree, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt, letting run until mixture becomes smooth.
  • Add coconut milk, maple syrup, both gelatin eggs, pureeing until smooth.
  • Pour pie filling into prepared pie crust and baked for 45 minutes.
  • Take out of oven and let cool for at the least 3-4 hours or overnight 

Enjoy!





Gabriella





1 Corinthians 1:25 "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coconut Curry Soup (AIP-Friendly)


Eating "Autoimmune Paleo" due to Chronic Lyme, is something I came to on my own, before it seemed to make a name for itself. Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc.) were the first to go, as these foods give me severe leg pain that shoots down the outer sides like a sharp, cutting razor. Because nuts and seeds are notoriously known as being hard on the gut, I naturally gave up these foods at the beginning of my illness. Though my chive and basil omelette were once a breakfast staple, I started realizing that reactions to these yummy, farm fresh eggs getting severely worse.  I also have been strictly avoiding fructose through a Low-FODMAP diet, as a way to keep SIBO away while my damaged small intestine nerves heal.  All others, such as alcohol, sugar (of any kind), and thickeners, have always been off my plate, and therefore never really occur to me as being part of the AIP.  


Personally, eating in such a way allows me to cope with every day symptoms, without exacerbating the underlying issues.  However, not everyone is able to transition to this way of eating as easily.  Even when eating devote Paleo for an extended period of time, nightshades and eggs seem to pop up literally everywhere.  
While restrictive eating can quickly become monotonous, all it takes is a little thought and preparation to make each meal that much more satisfactory.  Today's recipe, a hands-off chicken curry soup, is one that I made to help people see that the Autoimmune Paleo protocol does NOT have to be tasteless.  It can be plain and simple, with a bit of salt and lard, but it doesn't have to be bland, and I am here to prove it.  


Another important aspect of not just eating an AIP diet, but also living with an illness, is energy conservation.  Though being in the kitchen is my favorite form of pain therapy, coming up with meals on the spot is exhausting and frustrating.  Because of this,  I always have a small selection of fish or meat thawing in the fridge, along with a bunch of staple go-to vegetables readily accessible.  With constant fatigue, weakness, and full body pain, planning food ahead is key to minimizing unneeded stress.
Today's recipe is a great example of time and energy management, as you can prep all veggies, meat, and liquid ingredients the evening before.  Therefore, all that is left the next day is the simple act of placing the ingredients into your crockpot.  I started cooking the soup on the "low" setting, however, 1 hour in I realized time was running short, and proceeded to turn it to "high," making it to finish around 3-4 hours later. All in all, if cooking the soup of low, I would advise allowing a 6-8 hour time gap, while a setting of high will easily cook in 4 hours.  Though this recipe is acceptable for those on the AIP, my family, friend, and cousin, all equally enjoyed it, as I am sure you will too.  



Coconut Curry Soup
Print Recipe 
Ingredients
  • 2 lb chicken thighs (or) turkey cutlets
  • 1 full-fat canned coconut milk
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemongrass - chopped 
  • 2 cups leeks (white parts) - sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium sweet potato (2 cups) - cut into chunks
  • 3 cups baby bok choy - chopped and slivered 
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (or from a carton) 
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos 
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
Process
  • In a blender, combine coconut milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic powder, coconut aminos, fish sauce, and orange juice until smooth. 
  • Cut chicken into chunks (about 1-2 inches) and place in the bottom of your crock pot, and sprinkle with salt. 
  • Next, slice leeks into rounds, chop cauliflower and sweet potato into like-sized chunks and place on top of chicken.
  • Cut the bottom off the bok choy and sliver leaves down the center for long, skinny strips, placing in the crock pot as well.
  • Poor chicken broth into the crockpot, followed by the blended coconut milk dressing.
  • Cover pot and cook for 6-8 hours on low, or 4-6 hours on medium-high. 
  • Ladle into bowls and serve topped with fresh green onion or cilantro.

Enjoy!



Gabriella





Proverbs 23:18 "There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Crossfit and Paleo...What's the Catch?

Crossfit, an intense (yet invigorating) training program that “punishes the specialist,” by building a body that is versatile, strong, and able to take on anything through incredibly varied yet applicable movements.  Paleo, a diet that “gets back to human” through eliminating all industrialized and processed food sources, simultaneously emphasizing the importance of foods our ancestors ate, along with the powerful and healing benefits that they possess.  While both are completely out of the norm, seemingly crazy, and definitely not always accepted by conventional medicine or media, there seems to be a common link between the two. Though it is true you can (and many do) workout with Crossfit and still eat a SAD (Standard American Diet), it seems that those excelling in their athleticism and health are ones that pair the two hand in hand.  In today’s post, I will explain how both of these practices not only benefit our outward appearance, but also the internal, chemical equations that make us humans who we are. 

Crossfit vs. Cardio

No, Crossfit is not just another “cool” named workout program promising to make you look like a body builder, nor is it a Planet Fitness look-a-like providing you with a choice of 100 treadmills to go kill yourself on.  Rather, Crossfit is a highly dynamic way of exercising, originally created to condition police academies, tactical operation teams, military special operation units, champion martial artists, and a slue of other elite athletes for the future’s unknown.  Instead of focusing on your “body type,” Crossfit realizes that as humans, we all benefit from the same thing; movement.  Whatever your shape or size, this “sport of fitness” will inevitably help you excel is the “ten general physical skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.”  Unlike “chronic cardio,” each Crossfit workout is designed differently, done for short, yet intense spurts of time, and made to target different strength and weaknesses throughout the body.  By allowing individuals enough rest and recovery in between each exercise, this workout strategy (not regime) is one that finally applies to everyday life. Besides the crazy definition of Crossfit, is there really more to it than jumping up on boxes and lifting heavy thing?  The answer is yes. 


Hundreds to thousands of years ago, people were not driving cars to work, they did not have the luxury of buying food at the grocery stores, nor did they end their day relaxing in front of the TV.  Unlike today’s modern world, everything our ancestors did, had, and obtained, was done through their own works, planned (like hunting) or unplanned (fending off a dangerous predator). However, as civilization grew, this varied way of sporadic, every day activities changed.  Somewhere along the lines, running marathons became associated with being the most “fit,” and therefore healthy.  Instead of thriving from the benefits of “life or death” experiences, “cardio” became the next best thing.  

Moderate amounts of low-level aerobic exercise ultimately strengthen cardiovascular system function, however, due to the lack of oxygen available for muscles and organs, performing repeated, high-intensity exercise, makes our bodies use glucose as fuel both during workouts and everyday life.  With a maximum heart rate zone of 75-85%, anaerobic exercise is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but rather when it is carried out for extended periods of time, due to stress hormone release (aka the favored endorphin rush) and production of lactic acid in muscles. 
Though the US Government recommends citizens engage in 60 minutes of this vigorous activity daily in order to improve metabolism, body composition, and overall health, this concept is incredibly flawed. Because intense exercise spikes cortisol and requires glucose for fuel, frequent workouts of this medium-hard difficulty result in chronically elevated stress levels, cravings, fatigue, traumatized joints/tissue, hormone imbalance, depleted bone density, muscle mass, and overall systemic inflammation.  In other words, unless you are an elite athlete with a persistent personal trainer, sticking to this type of strenuous exercise for your entire life is physically and mentally impossible.  



In contrast to this long, monotonous, and aimless way of working out, our bodies prefer short, high intensity exercises, that are spontaneous and short lived (much like the situations our ancestors encountered).  When rest and recovery is included into what the body perceives as a stressful situation, the harmful effects mentioned above are not only avoided, but the internal mechanisms of our bodies “fight or flight” response are optimized. With only a momentary spike in cortisol, beneficial adaptive hormones release from the bloodstream into our body, targeting different organs and muscles to strengthen and help. Mitochondria cells are also able to effectively produce, build, grow, and protect the body from oxidative damage.  
In general, brief, yet challenging workouts that include full sweeping motions, improve overall energy, organ function, hormonal balance, and aging.  Two prime examples include sprinting and strength training, both of which are included in Crossfit workouts, along with equally varied low intensity aerobic (oxygen available) exercises. The key to this combination is quality over quantity, or intensity over duration, which allows the body to adapt and become stronger over the long term, avoiding a compromised immune system, muscle breakdown, and inability to move forward in performance. 


Sprint Like You Mean it 

Take sprinting for example, an event that incredibly enhances our mitochondria cells, insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, growth hormones, mood, cognitive function, alertness, energy, bone density and connective tissue (when done in high impact). Though they are short, occasional sprint workouts enhance protein synthesis by 230%, allowing one to maintain lean muscle mass, unlike “chronic” exercise, which promotes the break down of muscle.  By burning fat rather than glucose, the body is able to preserve precious glycogen stores, efficiently process and eliminate lactic acid (and other blood waste products) and extend overall endurance time, all of which make it obviously more beneficial than “chronic cardio.”  Ultimately, sprinting is only between 8 and 30 seconds, due to the the fact that performing at maximum effort over 30 seconds is literally impossible. Instead of trying to see how long you can “sprint,” it is key to focus on consistency, as there is no such thing as a light-moderate sprint workout.
Along with varied strength training and sprinting, Mark Sisson, creator of the Primal Blueprint 21 Day Transformation, also emphasizes what is called low-medium “aerobic” exercise, where oxygen is present and cells are able to develop efficiently. This type of exercise, recommended to be done 2-5 hours each week, ultimately promotes the body to be more resilient for the high intensity workouts. Therefore, with the proper ratio of strength training, sprinting, and comfortable, minimal stress exercise all done briefly and irregular, the body is strengthened from the inside out.  Obviously, our bodies were not made to run on a treadmill like a hamster, nor were we intended to be “gym rats” and only lift heavy things for a living.  Instead, movement that our body recognizes, adapts, and is truly fortified from is all that it takes to look good, feel good, and truly be good. 




Paleo vs. SAD

While moving and exercising in a way that helps body (rather than degrading it) is a big part of being truly healthy, the key factor to health, which is what determines 80% of body composition, is our diet.  The Paleo approach focuses on consuming nutrient-dense foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors thrived from many years ago. It may sound silly, as this way of eating usually gets termed the “caveman diet,” however, removing all grains, legumes, processed sugar, dairy, and oils, allows our bodies to function in the way that they were intended.  While ditching chronic cardio for Crossfit can be somewhat beneficial on its own, eating a SAD (Standard American Die) is very counterproductive to all that you just worked hard for.  In today’s modern world, the majority of food in any given grocery store is foreign and toxic to the body.  We have become carb-dependent and tricked into believing we need these products for energy and mere convenience.  However, eating in such a way creates a chronically elevated spike in insulin, which in turn suppresses the release of fatty acids and adaptive hormones from a properly executed Crossfit workout.  In contrast, Paleo eating, which eliminates all high-insulin producing foods, can (and does) serve as the catalyst for the multiple chemical reposes that occur after any primal-aligned exercise session (such as Crossfit). Instead of hindering our bodies from tapping into fat storage for energy and suppressing beneficial hormones, our organs are literally able to keep using these products for hours, even days after being released. Rather than messing with hormones, appetite, mood, energy, body weight, internal organs, sleep, and brain power, the Paleo diet allows the body to function effortlessly, resulting in anything from weight loss, muscle gain, athletic endurance, hormonal balance, appetite control, improved cognitive and immune function, elevated mood, energy, and the list goes on and on. 




As for those who believe they will not be able to preform in Crossfit without their handy dandy “carbs,” it is important to realize that the notion that there is a required amount of dietary carbs for our bodies to preform optimally, is false.  Though it is true that glucose is the primary fuel source for anaerobic exercise, primal aligned exercise such as Crossfit, will not create a huge need for dietary carbs because low intensity cardio burns mostly fat, and the brief, intense strength/sprint workouts aren’t long enough to result in heavy glycogen depletion.  Compared to the SAD, Paleo is “low carb,” but only in the sense that it brings down blood glucose levels from being highly toxic and harmful, to more normal, healthy ranges that our bodies can handle. In other words, for athletes looking to get the most out of their Crossfit workout, replacing a diet high in carbohydrates (all grains, packaged food, legumes sugar, etc…) with naturally “high carb” sources such as fresh fruit, starchy tubers, dark chocolate, and even wild rice and quinoa, will give one all the fuel that they need, without compromising the effects of their body composition (granted they are eating adequate amounts of fat and protein as well).  For those trying to lose weight while doing Crossfit, limiting carbohydrate intake to 100-50 grams is the ideal “sweet spot” that allows the body to tap into stored fat and balance out the bodies intended and optimal weight.


Summary

Unlike the popular belief that “pain is gain,” there is no reason (or proof) that spending hours in the gym helps one become a better athlete, lose weight, or simply “be healthy.”  In fact, even taking lengthy breaks from working out (of any kind) has been proven to be beneficial, as it allows the body for full rest and recovery. Instead of trying to burn more calories than consumed, optimizing carbohydrate intake, body composition, and athletic performance are all quite obtainable through both the right workouts (via Crossfit) and dietary habits (the Paleo diet). 

All in all, running more miles on the treadmill or doing more reps at the gym, can not out-do the detrimental effects of our SAD (Standard American Diet), as the skyrocketing rise in childhood obesity, cancer, and heart disease all serve as obvious proof. Instead, mimicking the same “life or death” situations that our ancestors thousands of years ago experienced through workouts like Crossfit, while supporting these movements with the same, ancestral approach to eating, we are able to reach the lost, forgotten, and thus seemingly impossible essence of optimal health.

Further resources: 

What Paleo Is

Paleo on a Budget


Endurance Athletes and Strength Training


Primal Exercise How-To


How Paleo and Crossfit Changed My Life


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Gabriella



Psalm 37:24-25 "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chocolate Caramel Nougat Bars


Candy! The one sugary concoction that seems to take the world by storm around the holidays. It is literally everywhere, in every form, shape, size, color, and flavor imaginable. Funny thing is, they are all essentially made with the same ingredients, or at least derived from the same sources; GMO corn, soy, and gluten. Yum. Growing up I never really had taste buds for candy. 
Because my mother has been feeding us real, organic/local food since we were little, I could easily tell how artificial "food" made me feel cruddy (i.e headache, sore throat, and toothaches). 
Despite the fact that processed, high sugar confections are literally toxic to the human body (in that they dump a huge load of glucose into our bloodstream), I don't believe treating yourself has to include the same detrimental effects.  In today's recipe, I use bit of maple sugar to give the candy the sweetness it needs, without leaving you feeling as though you just guzzled an entire bottle of corn syrup. I would not advise trying to make it "healthier" by substituting with a sugar free alternative, as it is important to realize that when trying to cut back on sugar as a way to lose weight, or simply be healthier, substitutes are the last thing our bodies want. Not only are these alternatives abused, but they always seem to have a "catch" that is more harmful to our bodies than real, unprocessed versions like raw honey, pure maple syrup, or organic molasses.  


One prime example of this would be xylitol, a common sugar substitute used in baked goods due to its lack of aftertaste.  Though thought of as safe, this ingredient is actually classified as a dense "acellular" carbohydrate source. This means unlike "cellular" carbohydrates that are naturally sweet in their whole form like sweet potatoes or blueberries, xylitol's cellular wall is already broken down before ingestion. When eaten, our bodies do not know how to handle this foreign food, because it is in a sense pre-digested, thus not allowing our gut to break down the cell wall to access the glucose, and therefore overwhelming the gut.  Instead of benefiting our bodies, acellular carbohydrates mess with gut flora balance and impair metabolism, both of which cause a rise in overall inflammation.  Other examples of these acellular carbohydrates are other processed sweeteners (fructose, HFCS, agave, dextrose, malitol, etc.), grain based flours, PUFA oils and fat (shortening & margarine). Raw honey or maple syrup on the other hand, are not as foreign to the body. Yes, they are sugar, but they come from real, minimally processed sources, and are much more easily recognized by our bodies. Many people see alternatives as their "out," or a way to continue satisfying their uncontrollable sweet tooth without actually trying or changing their lifestyle. Not only is this unhealthy for the body, but also from a psychological standpoint. Sugar substitutes have a time and a place, especially for people who cannot have sugar of any type due to serious medical reasons (like me), however, that doesn't give one the right to over-do them. Eliminating processed sugar (and substitutes) allows one's tastebuds to adjust, recognize the abundance of flavor present in real food, and ultimately enjoy eating on a whole new level.  I can tell you from personal experience that, it is truly crazy how sweet fresh fruit and even vegetables can taste on there own. 


As few notes on today's recipe, you can form these candies into little logs or rectangle, or simply layer them in a lined loaf pan, either way works. Though the recipe calls for macadamia nut butter (which I made by blending 2 cups of macadamia nuts in a food processor until smooth), you can essentially use any nut butter that you have on hand such as almond butter. If wanting to eliminate even small amounts of cane sugar, I have included my quick and easy recipe for homemade "raw" chocolate, which hardens in the freezer due to the saturated nature of coconut oil. Either way is equally delicious, and I am sure you and your guests will enjoy these confections just as much as my friends and family!


Chocolate Caramel Nougat Bites
Ingredients 
Nougat
  • Combine nut butter with sweet potato flour and maple sugar until fully mixed.
  • Using your hands, form nougat into logs and flatten to desired thickness in a parchment lined baking dish.
  • Once done, place dish into freezer until hardened. (10-20 minutes depending on thickness) 
Caramel
  • While the nougat is hardening, make 1/2 of my caramel recipe in a medium sized pan, as directed.
  • Once finished quickly pour the hot caramel into a heat proof dish *This ensures it does not burn to the bottom of your pan. 
  • Spoon equal amounts (about 1 tbsp) over each peace of hardened nougat, and spread into an even layer. 
  • Place in freezer and allow to completely harden. (10-20 minutes) 
Chocolate 
  • To make the chocolate shell, simply melt chocolate chips with one tsp of coconut oil over very low heat until fully melted, stirring every now and then to prevent burning. *Alternatively you can do this on a double broiler or stick the mixture in a heat proof bowl and into a warm oven.
  • Once caramel layer has hardened, spoon about 1 tbsp of the melted chocolate over the caramel layer, and smooth out with the back of your spoon.
  • Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and place candies into the freezer for 1 hour (or until chocolate has fully hardened) 
Raw Chocolate 
  • If making homemade chocolate, combine 1/3 cup of melted coconut oil with 1/3 cup of cocoa in a medium sized mixing bowl until fully combined.
  • Mix in 2-3 tbsp of maple sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and a pinch of sea salt. 
  • Allow to cool slightly until the caramel mixture has hardened over your candies. 
  • Once ready, spoon 1 tbsp of homemade raw chocolate over the caramel covered nougat.
  • Sprinkle with salt if desired, and place back in freezer for 1 hour.
  • Remove candies when ready to serve. *Be aware that the coconut oil will soften at room temperature, so make sure to always store candies in the freezer and serve immediately after removing.  

Enjoy!



Gabriella





2 Corinthians 4:18 "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."