Alright, folks. It’s Monday afternoon and day 2 of the epic blogging challenge. Here goes.
I remember standing in the kitchen of my tiny urban apartment one evening, a few months after graduating from college, and realizing that I had no idea how to cook. Total left-brained person that I am, my second thought was not–I need to find a good cookbook so I can learn how to create delicious meals, but rather I need to find a list of all the necessary nutrients there are, and what foods to find them in. But then I got busy, and there were always restaurants and packaged foods to fall back on. Since I seemed healthy enough, I didn’t really worry too much after that about my complete lack of knowledge of nutrition.
When I got pregnant with my first child 11 years ago, I finally started reading about nutrition and taking a vitamin. I read more with each baby, got a few cookbooks and some recipes from my mom and mom-in-law, and today my family eats pretty healthfully. But, when W was a toddler, we realized he couldn’t digest wheat gluten pretty well, and then a few years later found that a completely grain-, starch-, and sugar-free diet called the Specific Carbohydrate Diet worked best for him. For a few years, N. and I joined W. on his special diet and felt great on it. The only problem was the heavy reliance on nuts and honey to make up for the lack of starch. It got pretty expensive and was never even an option for us to afford our entire family eating almond flour bread every day. We have had two meal tracks going in our house for 5 years, and I have been praying for a solution to that for some time. The SCD is a therapeutic diet, and I was hoping to find just a healthy plan for all of us.
So, I picked up The Perfect Health Diet after reading Jen’s rave reviews. (She’s even quoted in the new edition of the book as one of the diet’s champions). It is the book I was wishing for back in my post-college, mac & cheese eating days.
Pretty technical, but fascinating if you have any interest in food and nutrition. Chapters on every vitamin and mineral out there. I loved it. 🙂
Here’s the diet in a nutshell:
–Eat red meat, fish, and eggs for protein (occasional chicken and pork for variety but not every day)
–Eat white rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, cassava, plantains, taro, etc. for starch
–Eat all fruits and vegetables for all their obvious benefits
–Eat full-fat dairy products and coconut & olive oil for fats
–Eat tree nuts, dark chocolate, and limited amounts of certain gluten-free baked goods for snacks and desserts
–Severely limit all sweeteners, especially sugar
–Completely avoid beans, legumes, grains, corn syrup, and vegetable seed oils such as canola, soybean, peanut oil (olive and coconut oil are okay because they are pressed from the fruit, not the seed, of a plant).
–Respect your body’s circadian rhythms by getting enough sleep at night and exercising for 30 minutes outside in the morning
–Supplement judiciously with vitamins and minerals that are not easily obtained from food (listed in the book and website–they think multivitamins are harmful for a number of reasons)
–(optional but highly recommended) Fast every day for 16 hours; in other words, only eat for 8 hours a day (if you are not constantly providing your body with food your body will have the opportunity to consume itself for energy, and it starts by consuming everything bad–longer than 16 hours and it starts consuming some good things)
–For children, follow the same diet with these changes: a bit more starches and a bit less protein, allow them 2 hours a day of outside play, and no fasting or supplementing with vitamins
The common denominator of all the forbidden foods are that they come from the seeds of plants. As I’ve tried to explain it to my kids, plants don’t want you to chew up their seeds because then they can’t grow new plants, so they’ve put lots of toxins into their seeds to stop you from eating them. These toxins, and the Omega-6 fats in them, according to the PHD, are responsible for a host of health problems from unwanted weight gain to cancer to the degenerative diseases. Sugar doesn’t come from a seed, but it feeds everything bad that can grow inside you.
So there you have it. If you want more detail than that, read the book. For me, I know that the only way to lose my baby weight is to stop eating wheat. It helps me to have a whole book of information convincing me that it’s bad for me for other reasons too. For my family, I know that wheat and sugar are impossible for my one child to eat, but I’d like to have a more workable diet that would accommodate him and our entire family. Wheat and sugar are addictive for my four children who can eat them, so it sure won’t hurt them to do without. I know it helps me to feel better and think more clearly; I’m sure it’s the same for them.
W. has been very receptive and interested in everything I’ve told him about the PHD. I think it’s a healthier, more balanced diet than the SCD; I’ve always felt like it isn’t natural to eat so many nuts. But, if you can’t digest starch, you can’t digest starch, and you have to eat something. Happily, W. has tried both rice and sweet potato so far, and had no problems!!
One last thought–is it totally First World and uppity to give up wheat? Am I too good for gluten? We just read at Mass on Sunday how Abraham served the Holy Trinity rolls made from “fine flour.” What about Manna? And isn’t Jesus the Bread of Life? I think Wellness Mama answers this one very well. Remember, the wheat we have today would be barely recognizable to people from Bible times thanks to modern farming technology.
We can still receive Holy Communion, and we can be gracious when we are visiting others by eating what is served and only declining if it’s possible to do so without offense. A little bit here and there is not going to hurt anybody, except for W., and everyone we know already understands that.
A week of meal plans coming tomorrow for day 3.