Let’s Talk about Research

Recently, I read this article about the paleo diet. (HT: Madwoman with a Laptop)

And, well, I’m kind of upset. Kind of. Why am I upset, you ask?

This person clearly didn’t do their research before posting their “drawback” area (which really surprises me because I see this person is a RD):

Despite the emphasis on very healthy foods, the Paleo diet has a few drawbacks or potential areas for misinterpretation. For one, the diet is heavily reliant on meat, and meat today isn’t as lean as it was thousands of years ago. Domesticated animals are sometimes stuffed with food and given little room to move resulting in fatty cuts of meat. In addition, adopting a diet from ancient times, when the average lifespan was in the 20s, seems less than appealing when one considers the average lifespan of today, which is in large part due to the eradication of nutrient-deficiency thanks to fortified foods and dietary supplements. The Paleo diet falls short on some of these micronutrients, namely calcium and vitamin D.

Hold up. Before I go on, let me say: this person is definitely right about some things. The paleo diet is quite dependent upon meat. However, the paleo diet stresses that you should eat grass-fed, lean meat. In fact, the first thing you should be eating is (dirt cheap) organ meat from (from grass-fed sources). But, there is also a heavy emphasis on eating fish. The Paleo Mom created a list of the best meats to eat, which is very helpful when grocery shopping. It’s not like we eat prime rib every night and call it a day. I mean come on.

Salmon. Image courtesy Today's Parent.

Image courtesy Today’s Parent.

Let’s talk about the second point: eating a diet that fed people who only lived into their 20s. This is a very unfair comparison. We live in a time that emphasizes modern medicine. People used to die from things such as measles, which can now be prevented. You can’t compare modern, scientific times to the paleolithic age. Sure, you could if you never got vaccinated, never used the hospital, and never saw a Western doctor EVER; but, these things are very, very unlikely. The Tylenol that you take when you get the flu to lower your fever never existed thousands of years ago. Humans have taken technology and used it to expand the lifespan of the average person. Even 50 years ago, people were not living as long as they are today. Case in point: this isn’t a good argument, and actually, it’s completely invalid.

Now, onto the point that made me more than a little upset: the paleo diet lacks intake of “micronutrients,” specifically vitamin D and calcium. Well, I have to make a correction. Vitamin D is actually not a micronutrient. It’s a vitamin. Anyway, this claim is so untrue it’s not even funny.

First, let’s address how vitamin D is made in the body. You’ve probably heard that vitamin D is made from exposure to sunlight. Sunlight hits the skin, causes a chemical reaction, and voila! You have vitamin D in your body. Of course, the process is much more complicated than that; but, that’s the main gist.

Sunlight. Image courtesy Network Vitality Center.

Sunlight. It does a body good.
Image courtesy Network Vitality Center.

“But Brittany,” you protest, “if it’s as simple as getting sunlight, how are so many people vitamin D deficient?”

My first suggestion would be to look at how much time you actually spend outside without sunscreen. Of course, this also depends on your skin tone. If you have a lighter skin tone, you probably only need 15-20 minutes of sun exposure a day; darker tones may need a bit more. The second thing to look at is your overall diet. Are you including fish? Fish is the main source of vitamin D in the paleo diet. Of course, if you don’t eat fish, you could supplement for it; but, as stated above, fish is important to add to the diet because it’s an important meat source.

I’ve never supplemented for vitamin D, and I’ve never been deficient.

I started with vitamin D first because it’s important for the micronutrient calcium.

While our bodies can make vitamin D, we can’t make calcium. Calcium has to be absorbed through foods. Vitamin D is the vitamin that allows the body to absorb calcium. So, if you’re vitamin D deficient, you are likely calcium deficient, too. It’s highly recommended that paleos eat sardines because they contain a lot of calcium, but there are a lot of paleos who eat dairy (beep beep, paleo police!), which is a HUGE source of calcium. Yes, it’s true: many, many paleos eat dairy because they tolerate it. That dairy is, of course, grass-fed dairy.

The lesson here: do your research before you post. Provide links with your evidence. Know what you’re talking about. Research is important and imperative.

Another note on research: I’ve been reading Chris Kresser’s quite interesting and informative article about the so-called benefits of supplementing with calcium. He writes:

Yet the evidence that calcium supplementation strengthens the bones and teeth was never strong to begin with, and has grown weaker with new research published in the past few years. A 2012 analysis of NHANES data found that consuming a high intake of calcium beyond the recommended dietary allowance, typically from supplementation, provided no benefit for hip or lumbar vertebral bone mineral density in older adults.

Here’s my thoughts, ladies and gents: do outside research on everything that goes into your body. If it’s published by the government, skip it. If it seems to have an undertone of selling you something, skip it. These people have their own agenda. They have their own companies to think and worry about. They don’t care about you as people; they care about money. Look for independent research. Look for research done by someone who’s not getting paid to sell you something. Research, research, research until you die.


Sunday Soapbox – Eating Out

I went out to dinner Thursday night. I. Went. Out. To. Dinner. Why is that such a big deal? Well, I’m here to tell you why: it’s terrible, for a person with multiple food allergies/sensitivities, to eat out. It’s almost downright impossible.

To understand this post, a little bit about gluten: gluten is proteins found in wheat endosperm. It is found in wheat flour, but it is also present in many other types of grains because of cross-breeding. Grains refer to harvested seeds. This lists includes but is not limited to: corn, oats, and rice. Those with a gluten allergy can usually (safely) eat grains that do not contain gluten. Since harvesting grains is a relatively new technology, paleos do not eat any grains.

When I gave up eating grains, my body changed. I lost *some* weight (though, people who haven’t seen me for a year look at me and go “OMG, you lost weight, wtf?!?!” but really it’s just “puffiness” that has disappeared from my body), and I respond severely to eating grains. About an hour after I’ve eaten grains, my stomach begins to swell. If I’ve eaten gluten, pain ensues. Terrible pain. And I cry. A lot, because that’s how much it hurts. For hours I lay in bed. In the fetal position. In pain. The pain doesn’t happen when I (occasionally) eat other grains. Obviously, now I can tell when I have eaten gluten because of the terrible reaction. It wasn’t always this way, of course. My stomach used to swell, and I used to think nothing of it. “I probably just ate too much again, oh silly me,” I would say to myself.

“What does this have to do with eating out?!?!!!” you’re wondering.

It’s nearly impossible for someone, especially a celiac, to eat out.

It’s nearly impossible because everything has gluten in it. EVERYTHING. And if it doesn’t have gluten in it, it’s most certain it will have gluten on it.

Side note: soy is another very common ingredient in foods. People with gluten sensitivities tend to avoid soy because it is generally grown in crop rotation with wheat. Of course, paleos avoid soy because it’s actually a legume, but that’s a different story.

I ate at Red Robin Thursday night. Actually, surprisingly, I was really impressed with this place. Our waitress was amazing; generally, we never get good waiters/waitresses. But! You know what was even more amazing?! As soon as she saw I had the food sensitivity book, she said to me, “I see you have the food sensitivity booklet. Whatever your food allergy is, we will do our best to take care of it.” IJWEIWJEHRK. REALLY? No place EVER says that to me. It’s a first. As a matter of fact, they cooked my burger on a separate part of the grill so that it wouldn’t mix with any of the food cooked with flour. I even heard they have a separate fryer for their fries (so that they don’t fry floured foods with the fries). AND!$#! my waitress warned me to get my fries without their seasoning because it might contain gluten (it’s not listed as an ingredient, though, so I’m not sure it does, or why seasoning would have flour in it). See what I mean about it being in EVERYTHING?

Not only was I super impressed with the way they handled my allergy, but their food was AAAAHMAZING! No really, though. It was very good. To start off the meal – yes, start off – Charlie (my boyfriend) and I split a salted caramel milkshake topped with pink salt. I could have died and gone to heaven. If I could only bring one thing with me to a stranded island, it would be this milkshake. It’s that good.


Salted Caramel Milkshake at Red Robin
Image courtesy of http://www.seattlesouthside.com

There is nothing better than salty and sweet. It was smooth, a little tangy, and deliciously salty sweet. The consistency was perfect in my mouth. Next, the burger tasted really good. They wrapped my burger in lettuce. It was juicy, well put together, and had just the right amount of “stuff” on top of it. Even better, I got something called a “pig out style” on my burger, where they top your burger with bacon, and they top that with bacon aioli. Could it get any better? So much of my favorite food: bacon. It sounds like it would detract from tasting the rest of the burger, but it didn’t. I think I salivated even after I was done eating it. Their lettuce wrapping skills need some work, though. The sweet potato fries served with the fries were pretty good (yes, sweet potatoes ARE paleo – they are a root vegetable). I mean, they were kind of plain, but let’s face it: you can’t do much with fries when you can’t use the seasoning that is supposed to go on them (which might contain gluten, remember?).

It’s incredibly difficult to eat out because most places don’t cater to people with food allergies/sensitivities. I usually have to stick to places like Elevation Burger (the absolute BEST place to get lettuce wrapped burgers) and Nandos Peri Peri (a chicken restaurant) – two of my favorite places to go. It’s exciting to have another place to eat, especially since Red Robin is quite affordable!