04 August 2012

Book Review: Practical Paleo. The Missing Manual Is Now Out


The basic idea of paleo diets and lifestyles is that man evolved eating foods and with activity patterns different from what most of us have today. Many of the foods we eat and the activities we pursue today and for that last 10,000 years (since the dawn of agriculture) are not good for us. (More accurately, do not provide optimal health). With some changes to our lifestyles, we can achieve robust or optimal health.

I have mentioned in some of my previous posts on nutrition that paleo style eating is probably a good path, and I continue to believe that. Many people have trouble actually implementing the approach. They have recipe books that call for added sugar, or breading, or the oils called for in the recipes are not healthful ones.

Now Diane Sanfilppo has written a book called Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle. It is the missing manual for Paleo.

Bottom Line - E4E Take:

Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle  by Diane Sanfilippo contains the why, what, and how of a paleo, ancestral-style diet. It is well-organized, beautiful to behold, and contains a ton of great information.

Even if you do not buy into the whole paleo movement, you can't go wrong with this book. Robb Wolf does the foreword. I think he is a highly principled person who would not put his mark on anything less than a top-rate product. It has 30-day meal plans for various goals, and all the recipes and ingredient lists you need to back it up. And keep in mind that paleo is not about caveman re-enactment, the main point is to eat healthful, natural foods that are nutritionally dense. That is not a fad diet. It's a good diet.

The book seems aimed especially at newbies to paleo, but even people who have been paleo for a while will benefit from the meal plans (and the lifestyle suggestions) and the recipes.

I notice that the macronutrient (fat, protein, and carbohydrate) ratios she recommends are pretty consistent with what I have recommended in the past (I recommended a bit more protein and less fat than she does). So maybe I like it because of confirmation bias, but more interesting is that Diane gets there by concentrating on food quality rather than macronutrients.

This book is a tour de force. I am ordering copies for my my kids and some friends. Buy pre-release and you get a discount.

Full disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book pre-release at no charge. I recognize that this can induce a bias. I have no financial or other interest in the success of the book unless you click the links to Amazon in the post, and even then it would amount to less than $1.00.

If you do want to order this (or any) book, I encourage you to go to Latest in Paleo scroll down a little and launch your Amazon search session with the keywords "Practical Paleo" from there. He does a really good service to the paleo community and we might as well give him a buck instead of Amazon.

The Book:

Diane Sanfilippo of the BalancedBites website has released a new book called Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle.

The book is gorgeous, and even just thumbing through the book you are guaranteed to learn something.

It contains everything you need to know about living a more healthy life following paleo/ancestral principles.

Following is a rundown of the table of contents with some commentary:

There are three parts to the book.

Part 1: The Why - Food and Your Body
What is Paleo
Everything We've Been Taught About Good Nutrition is Wrong
Paleo at Home: Shopping for Groceries - includes some great lists of foods that are considered paleo and information about their quality
Paleo in Public: Restaurants and Parties
On the Go: On the Road or in the Air
Your Digestive System
Is Your Gut Leaky?
Blood Sugar Regulation
Frequently Asked Questions

In Part 1, Diane talks about what paleo is, why conventional recommendations are flawed, and provides a bunch of practical tips for shopping eating out, and what to do when you're not at home. Then she goes into some detail on the science of why it is important, specifically dealing with digestive/gut health and blood sugar regulation and how those are in turn related to cardiovascular health, neurological damage, etc.

She talks a lot about questions and potential objections to paleo, including calcium, fiber, anti-nutrients, inflammation,  and cholesterol. She has good references including Robb Wolf, Mat Lalonde, Alessio Fasano, and Chris Kresser (among others) and information. I believe that the science is good.

Part 2: 30-Day Meal Plans
Autoimmune Conditions
Blood Sugar Regulation
Digestive Health
Thyroid Health
Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue
Neurological Health
Heart Health
Cancer Recovery
Athletic Performance
Fat Loss
Squeaky Clean Paleo

Each of these sections contains information on overall diet and lifestyle recommendations (what to include and avoid), supplements and herbs to consider, important nutrients, then 30 days of three meals per day. These are not necessarily 90 unique meals, she does include leftovers.

The practical approach of targeting specific issues is innovative and very useful.

Part 3: Recipes
Kitchen Basics
Beef & Bison
Sides & Salads
Sauces & Dips
Treats & Sweets

Recipes are about half of the book with almost 200 pages (over 120 recipes). We have tried a few of them at home and so far, so good. Our favorite is the Italian-style stuffed peppers. I am confident that we will cook many meals form this book over time. The photography is excellent.

The author's FAQ can be found here.

Diane has:
a blog, Balanced Bites
a facebook page, and
a twitter account. ( @balancedbites )


14 January 2012

Book Review - Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen

This is my first book review on e4e.

Full disclaimer: I received the book as a gift from the authors. They offered a copy to volunteers at the recent Ancestral Health Symposium. I have no financial or other interest in the success of the book unless you click the link to Amazon at the bottom of the post.
If you do want to order this (or any) book, I encourage you to go to Latest in Paleo scroll down a little and launch your Amazon search session with the keywords "Paleo Comfort Foods" from there. He does a really good service to the paleo community and we might as well give him a buck instead of Amazon.

I have no conflict of interest, but there is a possible bias. They were very kind to offer this book for free, with no strings attached, but with encouragement to review the book on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble. so I am well-disposed to the book in the first place.

Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen

One of the challenges with following a low carb, paleo, or any unusual diet is the social aspect of it. There are always recipe books available, but in the end, the food is just... different. This book "Paleo Comfort Foods" gives us a way around that. The recipes yield highly palatable food that look normal. They do this by substituting  ingredients like almond or coconut flour for normal flour found in standard recipe books.

This book is excellent. The food recommendations are aligned pretty well with the e4e recommendations. It has a lot of foods that look like standard comfort foods. Your Aunt Mildred from Dubuque would recognize most of the dishes. However, what she wouldn't know is that those mashed potatoes are really cauliflower, and that the breading on the chicken is almond flour. If you want to follow a paleo diet (stay away from grains, added sugars, and processed seed oils) yet still wish to function in a world of people who do not follow that way of eating, this book provides a perfect bridge.

It is an impressive book. The photos are beautiful. The cover has a photo of fried chicken, mixed vegetables and what looks like mashed potatoes and gravy. But looks can be deceiving. The mashed potatoes are cauliflower, the fried chicken has an almond flour coating and was fried in coconut oil.

It is not a low carb cookbook per se, but rather is good real food, with carbohydrates coming mainly from vegetables, fruit, and root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes.

The book is in six sections
1. starters and snacks: examples - spicy salmon salad or dip, devilish eggs, maryland crab cakes, bacon-wrapped dates
2. sauces and staples: chimichurri, not peanut sauce, paleo mayonaisse, cave ketchup, turkey gravy
3. soups and salads: creamy caesar salad, gingered butternut squash salad, chicken tomatillo stew
4. on the side: mashed cauliflower; creamed spinach; scattered, smothered and chunked sweet hash, sweet potato spears, dirty cauliflower "rice"
5. main dishes: green eggs and turkey, ham and egg cups, chicken breasts with mushroom sauce, chicken enchiladas, fried chicken, cedar-plank chipotle salmon
6. desserts: banana nut bread, strawberry shortcakes, jules' banana pudding, sweet potato pie, luscoius lemon squares

Also Robb Wolf does the foreword, there is a section on foods to keep around the house, and a section on essential kitchen tools.

Bottom Line: We have tried a half dozen recipes from this book. All have been great.  (One suggestion though--if you make the decadent chocolate cake with a kick, dial back a little on the pepper). I heartily recommend this book.

A few final words:
Kurt Harris of the Archevore blog might disapprove of this book as being akin to smoking candy cigarettes. That is by creating food in the form of unhealthy foods we encourage people around us to eat those unhealthy foods. From a purist standpoint, I see where he's coming from. But sometimes, we just don't want to have to explain our choices to people.

08 August 2011

Ancestral Health Symposium Notes

I have just attended an amazing event--the Ancestral Health Symposium. It was an incredible few days. I want to tell you all about it, but have no idea where to start, so I'll just wade in.

What Is It?

A two day conference held on the UCLA Campus on August 5 and 6. The conference featured many presentations about the "Paleo" diet and exercise (all the talks will be put online over the next few months). In some of my posts on diet, I have mentioned this philosophy, so I'll start with some of the basics.

Ancestral Framework

There is not at present a standards committee that declares what is and isn't paleo. I think of it more as a framework for thinking about what is healthy for us. The idea is that, fundamentally, humans are the product of millions and millions of years of evolution. We have both very primitive and very sophisticated chemical signaling systems in our body. Our bodies evolved through many different environments and circumstances.

In the last few hundred years, and especially in the last 30 or so years, we seem to be falling apart as a species. Worldwide, obesity and diabetes are skyrocketing. A key hypothesis behind this ancestral health movement is that the foods introduced into our collective diet, since the dawn of agriculture, and especially in the past few hundred years is literally killing us. It is becoming increasingly evident that although we are living longer, we are doing so with lower health than ever before.

Much of the press and publicity for this approach to health have focused on caveman re-enactment and Fred Flintstone slabs of beef. That is simply not the point of the Ancestral Health movement. In any event

Ancestral Diet

Defining the paleo diet is easiest to do by exclusion:
1. Eliminate refined sugar, limit highly concentrated natural natural sugars
2. Eliminate grains in general
3. Eliminate oils from seeds, e.g. canola, cottonseed, and corn oil

Within the paleo community, some say you should go further and
4. Eliminate legumes i.e. beans
5. Eliminate dairy and dairy products

What remains then is animal products (muscle, organs, and fat from animals including fish, fowl, beef, pork), vegetables (both starchy and green leafy), fruit (whole fruit, not juice), nuts.

Because so many foods have changed so much in the last 10,000 years, (the advent of agriculture), we can really only guess at the specific nutrients in paleo-man's diet. There is a general consensus in the community that it is best if the animals that you eat, eat their natural diets, e.g. grass fed beef, wild-caught fish. The community also seems to believe that omega-6 oils are more prone to oxidation than other oils, so fish oil supplementation or reduction of the omega-6 oils in the diet are important. Let's not forget the importance of sunshine.

The community tends towards some degree of variability to mimic ancient patterns e.g. there were not strawberries year round in our distant past, so eating seasonally may have value; periodic fasts without food whether for 16 hours or a few days are probably something we can handle without undue problems and that might even have benefits.

In its current incarnation the paleo community has rallied around a self-experimentation paradigm. It's not "anything goes", but rather within the above guidelines, try different approaches and see what works for you.

I will put out some more details on diet and some revisions to the E4E recommendations in the near future.

Ancestral Exercise

There is much less consensus around and focus on what constitutes true paleo exercise and how to gain benefits related to that. I would say that in general, there is less emphasis on "chronic cardio" and more emphasis on periodic intensity in exercise, as well as natural movement (running, jumping, climbing).

Interesting Talks

The conference was announced about a year ago and when tickets went on sale, I started to try to arrange my schedule, etc. I waited a little too long, so by the time I tried to buy a ticket, the conference was sold out. However, they needed volunteers, so I was able to participate as a volunteer. I was present but working for many of the talks and had down time as well to focus on them.

Here is a list of the talks that I really liked and that people seemed to be buzzing about:
Denise Minger - How to Argue with a Vegetarian
Nora Gedgaudis - lots of amazing stuff on mind-body integration
Tom Naughton - entertaining talk on bad science
Erwan LeCorre - moving naturally
Melissa McEwen - clues from the colon (humans are unique)
Emily Deans and Jamie Scott - the rainforest in your gut
Dr. BG and Tim Gerstmar - curing autism through diet
Pedro Bastos - Dairy
Robert Lustig - Fructose and Leptin
Mat Lalonde - heavy chemistry talk, but the real message was that paleo needs to go beyond caveman and have really good science
Andreas Eenfeldt - Sweden's experience with lower carb as their national paradigm
Richard Nikoley - representing the blogosphere, how he has used self-experimentation to lose 70 pounds and become a better animal

All the talks will go on the internet. They will first be uploaded in raw form, but later with some editing and polish. I have little information beyond these talks. I was either not in on the buzz, they were rehashing old material, or possibly were not well received.

In the meantime, here are some other bloggers' takes on the event.

E4E Experience

I met and spoke with a lot of people while there. I was extremely gratified and thrilled at how many were familiar with this blog. I have no illusions about its place in the blogosphere, but there were a few conversations of note.

J. Stanton of gnolls.org, author of The Gnoll Credo, saw my name tag and told me that he had sent someone to my gout post and that a month later the man was free of gout. The person had made a number of changes, but my gout post was a reference for him.

Another person I met was Krista Scott-Dixon, whose work I have perused for years. She has long been a proponent of women lifting actual weights (not the pink ones). Her dork to diva series is really good and she has put out lots of good information through the years. She is also editor-in-chief of Spezzatino. I introduced myself to her, she told me that she knew about E4E and in fact had used one of my posts (I think this one) with one of her clients. I was totally thrilled that someone who I have followed through he years was familiar with my stuff.

Finally, I shared a house for the three nights with a really cool group of people from the Bay Area including a few fellow bloggers, so check out An Omnivore's Decision and Primal Girl in a Modern World. Thanks to Tess for doing all the work to get the house lined up.

I will also thank US Wellness Meats for saving my (figurative) bacon from the fast food in the student union at UCLA. The beef sticks and jerky made me tingle in the best possible way.

I feel really energized after hearing the E4E feedback from people, listening to the amazing talks, and all the geeky discussions. Over the coming months, as the edited lectures become available, I plan to highlight some of the key ones.

Stay tuned.

22 July 2011

My Voice on the Internets - Jimmy Moore Low Carb Conversations

Jimmie Moore and Mindy Noxon Iannotti spoke with Kim Bosold and me a few weeks ago on Jimmy's newest podcast endeavor "Low Carb Conversations." Hear the discussion at this link.

Here is my most recent post extolling my dietary perspective.

My take on a recent JAMA letter  Proposing real food.

Here is my take on Gout.

Some of my relationship posts get a lot of hits too.
Feelings are Facts
The Nature of Love 1
The Nature of Love 2
Emotional Needs In a Relationship
More on Needs In a Relationship

Please be sure to subscribe either through email or RSS.

I hope you enjoy!

12 June 2011

Coming Into the Light

I have given it a lot of thought. When I started Emotions For Engineers (e4e), I decided to keep it as anonymous as I reasonably could. I am not a saint, and my life is not perfect. I was concerned about a couple of scenarios. First, that I would say something here that would have a negative impact on my work, or alternatively, that people would assume that I was writing autobiographically when I wasn't. That, and frankly, it's a little embarrassing to me personally just how late in life it was before I began to understand so many thing about relationships, health, love.

In the first case it could affect my ability to earn a living, in the second, I was concerned how people might treat my wife or other members of my family.

I am still concerned about those things. But I am going to come clean anyway.

Angelo Coppola, who has a blog and a podcast called Latest in Paleo in his March 28, 2011 podcast  (at 14:35) mentioned the e4e blog post about the JAMA recommendations, and I realized that I want personal recognition for what I do here. Even more than the recognition though, I think that having a person associated with the writing will make it more effective. This is not a moneymaker for me (although I have made about $15 from Amazon).

Also, my wife tells me it's good for transparency and to show vulnerability. Plus, I was tired of trying to be careful about this, although I am confident that anyone with reasonable skill in the art of google-fu could figure out who I am.

So, my name is Tony Kenck. I live in Oakland, CA, and work for Chevron as a Manager of Strategic Planning. I am married to my second wife, my first marriage having ended in divorce after two children. I have a BSc in Geophysical Engineering from Colorado School of Mines, and I have an MBA from the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

I was born in 1957 and have no religious affiliation. My wife and I each have two children from previous marriages. Hers have lived with us. All are either in college or out on their own now.

I also have a personal blog where I write about various subjects including politics, business planning, portfolio analysis, or whatever strikes my fancy.

And by the way, you may have noticed a dearth of postings lately. We were in the process of empty nesting and moving out of our family-sized San Ramon home to a small condo in Oakland. Over the last six months we have been busy selling, buying, moving, disposing, storing, borrowing, negotiating, buying, and planning. Thanks for your patience and understanding. More posts to come.

20 November 2010

Government in Our Kitchens

This recent article about Sarah Palin serving cookies to kids to protest government incursions into our food choices caught my eye. (Disclaimer: I am not a Sarah Palin fan, but this article is not much about her anyway.)

I agree with her sentiment, government should not be involved in our food choices. There are some unfortunate realities to deal with however.

  1. They are already in our food choices. The USDA has pushed US Agriculture on the American public for over 100 years. Remember that their mission has historically been to promote American agriculture. It was NOT to ensure the health of Americans by better food choices. There is damage to undo. Recently they added the following words to their strategic plan "... improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion..."
  2. Various food programs exist, e.g. school lunches, and follow the unfortunate guidelines laid out by the food pyramid.
  3. Government does have a clearly legitimate role in feeding our armed forces.
  4. The food industry, left to its own devices, has repeatedly shown preference to profits over food safety. This applies to other industries as well.

On the first two issues, it is no secret that I believe that the grain-based food pyramid has directly led to the epidemic of metabolic syndrome including increased diabetes and heart disease. The USDA has an institutional mandate to promote the agricultural industry in the US. They do not have a mandate to improve the health of US citizens.

I believe that the employees of the USDA are good people and that most have convinced themselves that they are also acting in the best interests of the health of the American people. It's the only way to deal with the cognitive dissonance created by the actual results of their recommendations. Face it. We eat more carbs, less fat, the mix of fats changed to more polyunsaturated and less saturated fats, we exercise more as a society. We followed their advice.

And we're dying.

The third issue is important in that, we need to feed our warriors. I wish we were feeding them well, I don't know the facts around the food in the armed forces. I'm not going to look into it now because it's not relevant to the point I am trying to make.

The fourth one is tricky. I am a libertarian at heart, but industries have shown repeatedly that left to their own devices, they poison the environment, do not look out for worker safety, and do not follow safe practices in their products. There are plenty of examples and counterexamples, but corners get cut in the pursuit of profits time and again. I think over the long term, companies that protect its workers and the environment will win. In the short term though, they seem to have no problem killing people.

I am not saying that government gets it all right. They assuredly do not. But contrary to the fantasies of Ayn Rand, government may be the only force large enough and with enough stroke to counter destructive industrial practices in the short term. It could be done better, e.g. I believe that the recent classification of carbon dioxide as a pollutant exceeds their authority and common sense. But overall, I am glad that OSHA and EPA exist. I believe that the net impact is positive.

Back To Sarah and the USDA

So Sarah brought cookies to the kids. This is just as wrong as the food pyramid. At least local governments are trying to undo some of the damage caused by the food pyramid by banning sweetened wheat. We can argue about whether they should have a role in it, but at least, finally, the message is good. Sweet wheat is bad for you. Maybe, just maybe, they can begin to undo some of the damage wrought by the USDA.

Note to Sarah: Next time you do this, please have a barbecue with bacon wrapped grass-fed filets, sweet potatoes (no marshmallows), and whole raw milk.

It will send the right message on both the government meddling and on healthy dietary choices. And by the way, it would probably be the best meal the kids have had in their lives.

And USDA, please fix the pyramid. It has been proven dangerous because people comply. Consider something like this food pyramid from Castle Grok.

Addendum: I stumbled across some information on miltary food (MREs), which is what the soldiers eat in the field.

They are 51% carbs, 13% protein, 36% fat, and 1200 Calories. The idea is that they eat 3 of these per day.

For more on Cognitive Dissonance check out:

For more on diet science and health check out:
Good Calories, Bad Calories