Showing posts with label lemon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lemon. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Starter Series: 3. Eat Fat.

Thus begins the third installment of our Starter Series about eating paleo-style: Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, little (or no) dairy, and no sugar, no grains, and no legumes.  I was going to call this "Eat Nuts and Seeds," as the above mantra would suggest, but then I took a step back and paused.  Question everything.   

What are we going for with "eat nuts and seeds"?  

Basically, we want healthy FAT sources.  It's the fat, not the nuts and seeds that matter.  Besides, many people are allergic to nuts and seeds, so this is a potential breaking point for those following a paleo-style eating plan.  This is especially true for schools.  You can't promote a diet placing nuts and seeds as prominent components when government standards disallow nuts from schools due to potentially fatal allergies.  I don't want this road bump to jeopardize the whole dietary plan!

Plus, nuts and seeds contain digestive nasties like lectins and phytates, just like grains, so I can't fully endorse them without some caveats.  While they have been a long standing resident in our diet, evolutionarily speaking, nuts and seeds can be hard on digestion.  If you've been down the paleo baking road or eat a lot of nuts, you know of what I speak.  Let's just say it can be messy...

So do we desire nuts and seeds for some unique benefit?  Are they contributing something vital?  Not really.  The vitamins and minerals they provide are great, but can be had through other sources.  The bigger picture is FAT.  We want to shift the paradigm to help the public, educators, and leaders accept fat as a NECESSARY (and freakin' tasty!) component of our diet.  It's okay, I know what they made you think all those years.  Contrary to popular belief, fat IS good for us and IS necessary.  For more on what I call Fatphobia, please read my post.

I've also taken on the infamous "arterycloggingsaturatedfat" in my post: Saturated with Fat.  

Here is what I can surmise from my research: 
  • Fat is a necessary component to EVERY meal.  It slows glucose from entering the bloodstream to protect against blood sugar spikes and a runaway train insulin response.   It helps promote satiety after eating.  
  • Fat is used for fuel.  It is a great source of energy.  Your brain NEEDS fat to function.  So does your heart.  
  • Fat is necessary to absorb and store essential fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K.  You can't live without them or fat.  Period.  
  • Fat cells secrete the hormone leptin that tells your brain, "Okay, I'm full!" Leptin also increases fat metabolism (using it for fuel) and metabolic rate in general.  It's not the amount of leptin that is key to losing and burning fat, but your body's sensitivity to it.  This mechanism mirrors that of insulin.  Just like how insulin resistance from perpetually high levels of insulin in a carboholic can lead to diabetes, leptin resistance can make the fat get fatter and may actually precede insulin resistance on the road to metabolic nasties like diabetes and heart disease.  The source of leptin resistance?  Surprise, surprise: Carbohydrates!  (Which, I might add, are also the source of insulin resistance.)  Looks like fructose is the culprit, another reason to ditch the agave, avoid HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) like the plague, and go low-carb.  Thus, fat is part of an integral feedback loop for weight management.  Read more about the leptin-obesity link at Whole Health Source.  
  • Insulin actually inhibits using fat for fuel, so high insulin means storage of fat, not burning it.  What spikes insulin?  Say it with me now: Carbohydrates!  Blood glucose rises from carbohydrate metabolism.  Thus, if you want to use fat for energy instead of a seat cushion, eat low-carb to keep your blood sugar in check.  Read more about this at Hyperlipid.   
Can you see the big picture emerging?  Carbohydrates, especially fructose-containing ones, create leptin resistance and carbohydrates, especially those metabolized into glucose (see the glycemic index), create insulin resistance.  Betwixt the two, you are riding the roller coaster to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, you name it.  Sounds thrilling!
  • Scary triglycerides that correlate with heart disease (unlike cholesterol in general or saturated fat--sorry to rain on the low-fat parade) have a glycerol molecule tying together three fatty acids.  That glycerol comes from carbohydrates you ingest.  More carbohydrate means more triglycerides, and limiting carbohydrate means fewer triglycerides.  Fewer triglycerides means less fat storage and increased ability to burn fat for fuel.  Hence LOW-fat, HIGH-carb diets lead to MORE triglycerides than HIGH-fat, LOW-carb diets.  You would think more fat in the diet leads to more triglycerides since they are made up of three fatty acids, but that just isn't what we see in the research (see The Heart Scan Blog for more details).  The authors of Hyperlipid and The Heart Scan Blog disagree on some aspects of this topic, so I suggest you read up on their viewpoints to make an informed decision of your own.  (Note: It is really quite a mind-trip to read such intensely in-depth discussions on the minutia of body chemistry.  Definitely makes me feel like a nutrition n3wb!)  
  • The linear model of saturated fat leads to high cholesterol (in particular the "bad" LDL kind) leads to heart disease is just plain wrong.  Sorry to rock your world, but it is.  Read Mens Health Journal for more information on the evolution of this revolution to modern medicine that is still on the fringe of public acceptance.  In reality, it's the small, dense LDL we need to watch out for which INCREASE when saturated fat is supplanted by carbohydrate in the diet.  Sounds eerily familiar to the triglyceride story.  So total cholesterol, HDL:LDL ratio, and even total LDL DO NOT correlate with heart disease.  It's the triglycerides and small, dense LDL you need to worry about, and your carbohydrate intake that is directly linked to both.  If you are concerned about your cholesterol, check the particle size (there are tests for it, just ask) for the bigger picture.  As my commenter from CrossFit Fire of the Gods pointed out, check out Heart Scan Blog for more information about cholesterol and read their own summary of the current research: CrossFit Fire of the Gods.  
  • FEAR carb overload (particularly of fructose-containing foods and high glycemic foods), trans fat and other man-made frankenfats (i.e. anything hydrogenated), and omega-6 fatty acids that overbalance crucial omega-3 fatty acids.  (We'll talk more about omega-6 below, don't worry.)
  • DON'T FEAR saturated fat, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, or monounsaturated fatty acids.  
Is your mind abuzz yet?  Need an interlude?  Here is a YouTube video from the movie Fat Head that puts fat in perspective in a silly, graphical way that I found really entertaining and simple to understand.  And it's short!  Thanks CrossFitKaty's Nutrition Blog for helping me find this resource!

The 'take away' so far?  Make sure you are eating healthy fat with every meal.  What is healthy fat?  Here are my suggestions:
  • Eat animal fats.
I know, this goes against the paleo "eat lean meats" prescription, so let me explain.  Animal fat is high in HEALTHY saturated fat (yes, I know it is hard to swallow, and even harder for me to type, but it is true).  Dr. Loren Cordain, founder of The Paleo Diet himself, has been softening his take on saturated fat.  Originally, he was rooted in the Saturated Fat Bashers camp, but he is coming around, albeit slowly.  Healthy animal fats are embraced by the Primal Blueprint, including lard, poultry fat, tallow, and ghee, as described in a good primer at Mark's Daily Apple.  

Saturated fat really isn't that bad for us.  Re-read my post Saturated with Fat for more information.  And don't forget that great Men's Health article dispelling the myths.  For more, check out Dr. Eades author of Protein Power.  

NOTE: Eating animal fats does NOT mean eating bacon 24/7.  Sorry!  Despite that savory aroma-eliciting salivation and the electrifying melt-in-your-mouth crunch of meaty baconiness once you sink your fangs into its crumbly flesh, bacon almost always includes sugar (in some form or another, yeah I mean You, evaporated cane juice) and can also include toxic nasties called nitrates, a known carcinogen.  Choose your bacony indiscretions wisely and know that although divine, it probably isn't technically-speaking "paleo," unless of course you can actually find sugar-free, nitrate-free, paleo conforming bacon.  If you do, please let me know where you find it!

Butter is another grey area.  Dairy constantly has its kneecaps lobbed off by the Paleo Diet proponents, including founder Dr. Loren Cordain.  I can understand their issues with dairy: the growth hormones and inflammatory-response inducing proteins, plus the heavy dose of omega-6 and toxins from the grain-based diet of most dairy cows.  Makes sense.  But there is also some good about butter, namely: vitamins A, D, E and K, antioxidants, CLA, "anti-stiffness" factor, iodine, digestion-aiding fats, and cholesterol (yes, cholesterol is good for us, get over the myth already!).  These benefits are described in more detail here in an article by the Weston Price Foundation.  You may have stumbled upon that name before since he is often mentioned in the paleo/primal community.  Weston Price was an ethnographic researcher at the turn of the last century who studied the health of isolated, non-industrialized populations around the world to determine a healthy ancestral diet.  He came up with dietary guidelines somewhat similar to the Paleo Diet; however, he included dairy and sprouted/soaked/fermented grains amongst suggested foods.  Another discussion of butter is a post by Hyperlipid, a blog I mentioned earlier.  This is a VERY technical post that appears to come to the conclusion that butter is okay as long as your blood glucose isn't sky high (one more reason bread and butter is NOT a good idea at the nightly dinner table).  Another example, a study at Lund University found that butter produces less fat in your bloodstream than olive oil.  Why?
The primary explanation for the relatively low increase in blood fats caused by butter is that around 20 per cent of the fat in butter is comprised of short and medium-length fatty acids. These are used straight away as energy and therefore never affect the blood fats to any large degree. 
I think I will stop here and save our discussion of dairy for another Starter Series post.  For now, I would suggest excluding dairy initially from paleo-style and then reintroducing butter (and other high fat dairy) slowly and only from the best sources (raw, grassfed).  Does it make you sick?  If not, add some to your diet and enjoy the benefits.  May the paleo gods strike me down: I LOVE raw, grassfed butter!
  • Eat healthy oils.
Fish oil is a biggie here.  You probably should be supplementing with quality fish oil because you just can't get enough from fish (yeah, you can try, but you'd probably wind up with more toxins too since the fatty fish with the highest omega-3 are also high on the food chain and accumulate a heavy dose of heavy metals--our gift to the seas).  Also, the omega-3 that used to be ubiquitous in the hunter-gatherer diet we evolved upon just isn't as readily available today.  Times have changed and we have moved on to feeding our animals boatloads of grains and changing their body composition to fit our preferences.  Even eating all grass-fed, pastured, wild caught meats isn't enough.  From our omega-3 discussion, you know that more omega-3 is better because we want to balance out that potentially nasty omega-6 bombarding our diet from processed foods, meat, nuts, seeds, etc. and although omega-6 plays important roles in our diet, it can also lead to the dark side of inflammation.  So we are trying to get back a roughly 1:1 balance of omegas;  thus, we can benefit from supplementation.  Yes, I know it is processed and creating dependency on something inherently unnatural.  That bothers me too.  But I see the benefits and don't think I can ever eat enough fish to get the omega-3 I need.  So, I try to reduce the evil of this suggestion by finding quality, purified (mercury and PCB free) fish oil without a long list of fillers and other substances like wheat and soy that chip away at the fish oil's anti-flammatory benefits.  The other benefits of fish oil?  How about better recovery from exertion and sickness/injury, a healthy brain (remember, your brain is fat fueled), heart health, better vision, and protection against cancer?

Possible side effects include fishy burps (the few I had initially went away quickly and haven't returned--if unnerved, try a flavored brand without chemical additives), possible bruising and blood clotting issues from thinned blood (rare, but possible especially with high dosages; however, this is challenged at the Heart Scan Blog), too much vitamin A or D if you take cod liver oil in high dosages, and the toxins from our lovingly polluted seas.  A lawsuit was recently filed that challenges the purity of well-known brands of fish oil.  Although purity may be in question, I have to trust that guarantee label on my bottle (not a tested brand, yet, unfortunately).  I still believe the benefits speak for themselves.  Still hesitant?  There's more detail at The Paleo Diet website,  Mark's Daily AppleHyperlipidHeart Scan Blog, etc.

To calculate your recommended fish oil dosage, use this handy calculator from Whole 9.  Brilliant!

Other healthy oils: olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, and in moderation: walnut oil and sesame oil.

Not so healthy oils: canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, cottonseed oil, grape seed oil, and soybean oil.

Check out Mark's Daily Apple for more detail on these oils including important information about heat and oxidation potential--a MUST read!  
  • Eat nuts and seeds.
Nuts (no, not peanuts, silly--they're beans) and seeds are a healthy component of paleo-style eating because they add fat, along with some other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.  Nuts and seeds are the storage form of energy for growing seedlings, so they are packed full of nutrition.  They are endowed with vitamin E, essential fatty acids, fiber, folate, plant sterols, magnesium, and potassium.  As a protein source, they are pretty poor because they are so much more fat than protein, and because they contain lectins and anti-nutrients, like phytates.  Soaking can help remove these toxins for easier digestion.  However, if you are looking to lose weight, limit nut intake (Cordain recommends 4oz a day max for those trying to lose weight).  Why?  Well, at first glance, he is just repeating the "fat makes you fat" propaganda and he doesn't like the high omega-6.  I can agree with the latter point.  At second glance, I realize that it is the CARBOHYDRATES in nuts that are the problem.  While you may think you have a great fat source, you forget those other macronutrients that the Zone allows us to sweep under the carpet.  Carbohydrates in excess of 50g a day WILL not allow you to lose weight, instead, they'll help you gain it and also lead to more problems down the line.  Here are the breakdowns: an ounce of cashews has 8.5g of carbohydrate (not counting fiber); pistachios are 4.5g per oz; almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts are about 2g per oz; and macadamia, brazil, and pecans are closer to 1g per oz.  Doesn't sound like much?  Try munching and see where it takes you, or dip into some nut butter.  It is easy to go overboard.  On a lower-carb diet, every gram is precious and most should come from veggies.

Valid question: Why eat nuts and seeds, which have lectins/anti-nutrients/phytates, but NOT grains, which also have them?

Answer: Basically, anti-nutrients are characteristic of all plants to some degree or another, especially their progeny!  The argument for the inclusion of nuts and seeds is their host of nutritional benefits and their evolutionary history with us.  We have been eating nuts and seeds far, far back in our evolutionary record (not that our history justifies our diet, but it provides evolutionary context at least) and our bodies can digest them easier than grains, especially those containing gluten (see Why No Grain and Cereal Grains: Humanity's Double-Edged Sword by Cordain for more).  Nuts and seeds require minimal processing and were an important fat in many hunter-gatherer diets.  To remove the digestive irritants, you can go soak your nuts (heh) and seeds to increase their digestibility.  Nut and seed oils have removed the anti-nutrients and lectins, but watch their level of processing, omega-6:omega-3 ratios, and dangerous oxidation at high heat.  Bottom line?  Take them or leave them.  I think you can make a solid argument against nuts and seeds as much as for nuts and seeds.  If you like them, don't overeat them, and don't feel digestive detriments, then by all means enjoy them.  You can get your fat from other sources, but having more variety is always nice, especially with a diet already slashing out whole food groups :)

Okay, so which nuts and seeds are best?  Cordain doesn't really like seeds (except flax, but he is changing his mind on that too) and definitely voices caution about nuts.  Here is Cordain's comprehensive chart on the types of fatty acids in different nuts.  What does all this mean?  According to most sources, try to minimize the omega-6 content, so choose nuts that have high omega-3 relative to omega-6.  But, you're pretty screwed no matter the nut, since they ALL have such high omega-6, hence limiting them in your diet.  Macadamia nuts do well, and coconut oil (super high in saturated fat) is my hero, despite Cordain's reservations.  My suggestion, minimize the carbohydrate and omega-6 whenever possible and go light if you are trying to lose weight, EXCEPT with coconut oil, since it's so darn special.
  • Eat avocados.
Yes, they are a class of their own.  I couldn't find which other category fit them best.  They are technically berries, and named after a certain other "nut" found on human males--no joke!  Their flesh is rich in monounsaturated fat.  Avocados are also high in potassium (more than a medium banana); folate; carotenoids; vitamins E, B6, C, and K; fiber; copper; and phytonutrients.  They can be eaten raw as a delicious accompaniment to steaks, chicken breast, and salad, or blend them in puddings, smoothies, and shakes for non-dairy creaminess.  Pretty versatile! 

Bottom-line: Fat is good for you!  Make sure you have a fat source with every meal!

And now for the recipes

I included fat in almost EVERY recipe to date--so I will save you the exhaustive list.  Feel free to search and use the sidebar tags for my recipes.

Today's recipe is one I have been devouring lately.  It is so good that I think about it when I wake up and savor the memory when I go to bed.  No kidding.  But that is how paleo has been for me: an exploration of my tastes and adventure into the unknown, finding mouth-watering gems along the way.  Here is my latest, and the best part?  It's a five minute or less meal!!!

Salad from the Sea
I thought I hated canned fish, but when the necessity for a quick non-refrigeration-required meal hit me, I  put the past behind me and gave this a go.  OMG--It is SO delicious!!!  I can't get enough of it!

Serves one for a satisfying full-fat meal ready in five minutes or less!  Easily doubled, tripled, etc.

1 can of wild caught mackerel packed in olive oil with sea salt and NOTHING else on the ingredient list*
1/2 lemon

Wash lettuce and place in a large bowl.  Add the contents of the can of fish, breaking the fish into bite-sized hunks.  Add lemon juice to the empty can and swirl to try to get every last morsel out of that can.  Empty onto your salad.  Toss to incorporate the fish and dressing evenly.  Grab a fork and have at it!

Why is this a fat recipe?  Read the label (yeah, I know, "no labels in REAL paleo," but hardliners can get their head out of the sand and get real).  More fat than protein, oh yeah!  You get the benefit of fatty fish omega-3 and olive oil's monounsaturated fats, the lettuce and lemon's net basic load to balance the fish's acid, high-quality protein from the fish, and a slew of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to fuel your body nutritiously.  Such symmetry in such an easy paleo meal!

*One caveat: I have heard that eating canned fish is a "no no" due to toxins in the fish and from the canning process (and, yes, any processing is frowned upon).  Also, the high heat of canning reduces nutrients and oxidizes fat.  This study shows that consuming less than 350g of canned fish a week is safe toxin-wise, but children and pregnant women should use caution.  The take-away: canned wild-caught fish without added anything is probably best, if less convenient, and better yet: use freshly cooked, wild-caught fish you made yourself.  And try to eat fish that don't accumulate those toxins we've put in their water, so go small.  Add your own olive oil or another tasty healthy oil to make this salad even healthier!  For me, this'll do in a pinch and is damn tasty, dare I say, even crave-worthy!

Fish Salad on FoodistaFish Salad
Fish Citrus Salad on FoodistaFish Citrus Salad
Tuna Fish Salad on FoodistaTuna Fish Salad

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sweet Salad

UPDATE 1/13/10:  This salad is just as good without the figs!  I love the lemon-walnut oil dressing.  So simple, so good!  Give it a try!

Okay, I am off the crack.  I have been sugar free for over a week (minus whatever sugary sauce is on unagi and Japanese salad during my sushi cheat meal).  It has been hard.  I saw a great comparison of sugar to heroin--both come from a plant (sugar cane or beet/poppy), both are refined (molasses/opium), refined again (brown sugar/morphine), and a final time into pure, white crystals (white sugar/heroin).  They both have seriously addictive properties and alter your body--mentally and physically.  Seems extreme, but it isn't a bad comparison.  I have been cranky and craving sugar really badly.  So bad I even cried about it as my mind filled with "why me's" and tried to break me down.  But I have resisted.  I still have my fruit, but I am cutting back.  Today's fig salad was last week's indulgence and since I can't rule out its contribution to my tiredness and headaches by late afternoon (probably related to my sugar detox), I can't indulge on dried fruit as often.  It is candy, unfortunately.  Delicious, natural, healthy and even-better-than-sugar candy, but to my body it is candy nonetheless.

I definitely recommend this DELICIOUS salad.  It has helped curb my sugar appetite and has been a good segue food back into the lower glycemic living that is where I want to be.  Give it a try when you are craving a sweet salad with a lemony kick!

But first, let's talk ingredients: figs, walnuts, and lemons.  When I first laid my eyes upon figs, they scared me.  Outwardly they reminded me of pears, but butterfly when cut into gummy-looking flowers.  Exactly how do you eat them?  On my quest to boldly expand my culinary horizons, I bought dried figs. They looked safe.  Lovingly prepared by a motherly Turkish woman on the label and all tightly packed into a pretty disk-shape.  Safe.  At first nibble, I was sold.  When dried, they have such a sweetness, just like sugar, but with taste!  Reminded me of the fig newtons my grandfather always broke out when we came to visit as children.  I remember being slightly miffed that he didn't keep chocolate chips and oreos on hand for his grandchildren (what was he thinking?), but the "grown-up" fig newton cookies were pretty damn good.  I loved to eat the filling out of the cookie or eat the cookie without touching the filling.  Oh the games...  At least I was enjoying my food.  Too bad they were nowhere near healthy, "grown-up" or not...

Figs are my sugary treat when I am forgoing sugar (even honey and agave, they count as sugar too).  Figs are relatively high on the glycemic index (61) and glycemic load scales (16) (see my upcoming post for more details about those--I know, I know, I keep saying that, but I swear it is coming!  It is hard to whittle down such a huge topic to present it here).  Numbers over 50 for the glycemic index and over 10 for the load are considered high.  But that is to be expected when you dry a fruit to its sugary state.  The paleo diet doesn't recommend dried fruits for their candy-like nature, but when weaning off the sugar, to me at least, they are an acceptable crutch, in moderation (which I really have to remember!).  Figs are high in potassium, antioxidants, and fiber.  They have been studied in correlation with reduced bone density loss, and high fiber fruits such as figs have been correlated with reduced risk of breast cancer.  For more details on the health benefits of figs, check out this site.   When choosing dried varieties, try to avoid those containing sulfites, a chemical preservative to which some people are highly sensitive, especially those with asthma.  Go organic to make sure there aren't any sulfites used.  Some people also have an adverse reaction to oxalates found in some foods, including figs.  Oxalates are natural molecules in some fruits, nuts, and seeds that can form crystals with calcium and potentially harm the kidney and gallbladder.  The conditions requiring restriction of oxalate-containing foods are rare, as is overconsumption of oxalates.  Interestingly, oxalates usually move through the gut and are metabolized by your gut flora without incident.  However, when there are absorption issues from a damaged digestive tract, undigested oxalate can move out of the digestive tract and into the bloodstream, thus creating some problems when it crystalizes and gets lodged in tight places.  What is one cause of digestive tract damage leading to a "leaky gut"?  I will give you one guess.  More on oxalate issues here and at the low oxalate diet website.

Back to our ingredients.  Where were we?  Ah, yes, walnuts.  Walnuts pair superbly with figs.  They are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which account for their anti-inflammatory benefits, cardiovascular protection, and cognitive boost.  Walnuts contain antioxidants that inhibit cancer growth and promote immune function.  For more on the health benefits of walnuts, check out this site.  The Paleo Diet book by Loren Cordain advices us to eat walnuts because they are rich in monounsaturated fats which lower cholesterol, risk of heart disease, and risk of cancer.  They are also rich in polyunsaturated fats that also lower cholesterol.  Cordain recommends walnut oil second only to flaxseed oil* (and mustard seed oil, which is a hard to find oil in the US).  He promotes a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, trying to achieve a ratio of between 2-3 to 1.  Omega 6 is unhealthy in excess and accounts for too high a portion of our dietary omegas, coming from highly-concentrated sources like cereal grains, grain-fed meat, and vegetable oils.  Even on the paleo diet it is always a push-pull to keep omega 6 fatty acids low.  They are in nuts, seeds, avocadoes, and even lean, grassfed meat.  However, omega 3 is very beneficial as discussed above with its recovery boost and protective benefits.  So we are always trying to counterbalance the omega 6 in our diet by consuming more omega 3 in the form of fish oil, fatty fish, and nuts.  In general nuts have too high a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3, but walnuts are a good choice with a closer to ideal ratio of 4.2.  Read more about fatty acids and nuts on the paleo diet website.  Bottom line: walnuts are one of the best nuts to eat!

Finally, lemons.  Lemons are interesting when looking into acid-base balance, an important component of the paleo diet.  While they (and other citrus fruits) seem acidic, the body treats them as a base.  Why is this important?  Ideally, we want to balance the acids and bases in our diet because if we don't, the body has to compensate and pull what it needs from the body to balance it out.  Osteoporosis is a leaching of calcium, a base, from the bones.  Many of our foods are acids and only fruit and veggies are bases.   To quote Loren Cordain, paleo diet founder:
Bone health is substantially dependent on dietary acid/base balance.  All foods upon digestion ultimately must report to the kidney as either acid or base.  When the diet yields a net acid load (such as low-carb fad diets that restrict consumption of fruits and vegetables), the acid must be buffered by the alkaline stores of base in the body.  Calcium salts in the bones represent the largest store of alkaline base in the body and are depleted and eliminated in the urine when the diet produces a net acid load.  The highest acid-producing foods are hard cheeses, cereal grains, salted foods, meats, and legumes, whereas the only alkaline, base-producing foods are fruits and vegetables.  Because the average American diet is overloaded with grains, cheeses, salted processed foods, and fatty meats at the expense of fruits and vegetables, it produces a net acid load and promotes bone demineralization.  By replacing hard cheeses, cereal grains, and processed foods with plenty of green vegetables and fruits, the body comes back into acid/base balance which brings us also back into calcium balance.  The goal is to avoid a net acid load on your kidneys.
In addition to promoting bone demineralization, a net acid-producing diet also contributes to the following maladies and illnesses: calcium kidney stones, age-related muscle wasting, hypertension, stroke, asthma and exercise-induced asthma.
To read more from this article and check out the ratings of different foods, look here.  The bottom line: we are trying to load up on fruits and veggies to counterbalance the acidic load of meat and salt in our paleo diet.  When life gives you lemons, make salad dressing!

* Flaxseed oil intake is a topic under much debate.  Check out Mark's Daily Apple for some introductory information on the issues.  I will try to put together a post on the findings in the future!

Fig Salad with Lemon-Walnut Dressing
Crunchy greens and a sweet and tart dressing make this an elegant salad!

Prep time: less than 15 minutes

1 lemon
walnut oil
dried figs to taste (I buy the light skinned dried fig rounds from Turkey--they are superior to the mission figs I have tried, to me anyway)
greens of your choice  (I am partial to peppery baby arugula, which takes this salad to a whole 'nother level)

This is crazy simple: just plop your greens in a bowl (the more the better).  Tear up the dried figs into small pieces (say 4-8 per dried fig) and add to the bowl.  In another bowl or sealable container to store leftover dressing for another use, squeeze the lemon juice and add at least 1T of walnut oil.  Mix or swirl to incorporate.  Taste it and add more walnut oil as desired to balance the lemon's acidity.  Once you are happy, drizzle your dressing over your greens, as much as you feel necessary for equal coating and taste.  Toss to mix.  Finally, devour your tasty, sweet salad!

Serving Suggestions:
Since I always have meat when I have carbs (something I took from the Zone), I usually add meat to my salad, such as rotisserie chicken.  DELICIOUS!

Figs on FoodistaFigs

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Recipes: Spoon Salad and Simple Citrus Dressing

I have been trying out recipes from around the blogsphere lately and found a delicious keeper that will definitely become a staple: Spoon Salad by Simply... Gluten Free (sorry, I ate it before photographing it!).  While the name doesn't really illustrate the deliciousness of this dish, I implore you to check out the recipe.  I was skeptical at first too, but the tasty blend of every veggie known to man really won me over, especially after I added my simple dressing to spark the taste buds.  And the best part (besides being freakin' easy, quick, and no-cooking-required), as Carol discovered: the family will love it!  My husband really dove in and had it more than once, which definitely speaks something for those less inclined to feast upon veggies!  Here's my experience:

Ingredients I used:
4 small to medium golden beets, peeled and cut in half
2 carrots, peeled and cut in half

1/2 head of red cabbage, rinsed, dried, and quartered
6 small zucchini, rinsed, dried, and ends chopped off and cut in half

1 bunch of chard, rinsed and dried
1 bunch of Italian parsley, rinsed and dried
1 container of pre-washed baby arugula

I made the recipe as described, but used golden beets and was pleasantly surprised by their complete lack of stainability, a known problem with their red relatives.  I peeled four small-medium golden beets and cut them in half and added them to peeled carrots (cut in half) in the food processor.  I pulsed until the large bits were broken up and then let 'er whirl until the tiny bits collected on the sides.  I made sure I stopped short of puree, but the fine chop was ideal.  What came out was a sunset hue of veggies that was so gorgeous I almost stopped there.  The burnt orange-yellow sunset veggies looked so vibrant, reflecting off the sheet metallic bowl.  But I had so many veggies to use, I couldn't stop there.

Onward I plunged, scraping out the carrot-beet mixture, adding the half head of red cabbage, quartered, by itself since there was so much (and it took 2 batches to completely chop--so don't overfill or you'll be fishing out chunks from the finely chopped bits--not fun).  The purple hue added a twilight tinge to my sunset veggies.  Then, the zucchini (I could only find tiny ones, so I used twice as many and cut each in half before adding to the food processor), which added puffy white clouds to my sunset.  Finally, the vegetation to be bathed in sunset splendor: one processing batch each of rinsed and well-dried chard and parsley and arugula I substituted for watercress that I couldn't find at the store (I saved my kale for kale chips instead since I think I had quite enough greenery without it).  The arugula added a lovely peppery-ness I adored.  The result was a kaleidoscope of colors, a rainbow sunset with each color just screaming out from the masses with its own uniqueness of flavor and texture.   I was enthralled.

I let the salad sit until dinnertime and then dressed individual servings with Simple Citrus Dressing.  OMG it was divine and such an awesome way to get your raw veggies!!!  To note, on cold days, you can also heat the salad in the microwave and it tastes great!  I served it with seared scallops, broiled fish, chicken, grass-fed beef, you name it.  Delicious!  And the recipe makes a ton--so you can experiment with it and serve it in different ways for a good portion of the week (it lasts a good 4-5 days when covered and refrigerated).  Enjoy your veggies!

Simple Citrus Dressing
Use this vibrant dressing on all sorts of salads and seafood to brighten the flavor and spark your taste buds!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 2 as individual salad dressing or one honking salad to be devoured by a group

1 avocado (the larger, the better)

juice of 1-2 citrus--lemon or lime work equally well

optional: garlic powder/granules and chopped chives or green onions

optional: nut oil of your choosing to dilute dressing to your pleasing (NOTE: too much hazelnut oil makes it overpoweringly hazelnutty, you are warned)

optional for the lime dressing: chopped or torn cilantro

optional for the lemon dressing: small bit of olive tapenade or plain olives

play around with spices as you like!

Juice the citrus of your choice and place it in a bowl.  Add half of the avocado and mash the avocado with the juice.  Add any optional ingredients.  Taste and adjust quantities/seasonings.  Add dressing to the salad and mix throughly to coat evenly.  Cube the other half of the avocado.  Add it to the finished salad.  Voila!--you have a simple salad in five minutes or less!

Serving Suggestions:
This is great over the Spoon Salad, but also delicious over mixed greens and spinach.  I make it in a tupperware container and just keep adding more avocado and citrus (sometimes oil) as needed until I feel it has been around for too long (lasts at least a week).  This is also the only way I have kept avocado with success without it turning disgusting brown.  The citrus saves the vibrant green color for salad after salad!

Citrus Dressing on FoodistaCitrus Dressing