Friday, November 22, 2013

Banish your Grain Brain (Part 2: Results)

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Grain Brain. As always, the opinions expressed are all my own!

So last month I told you I was starting the Grain Brain Challenge based on Dr. David Perlmutter's book: Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers.

Check out the initial post to learn all about the surprising effects carbohydrates may have on your brain health, and what the challenge entails.  It also contains some photos of foods that helped get me through!


Now, after four weeks have come and gone, the challenge is over and it's time to recap the experiences and outcomes regarding food, fitness, sleep, and general health:

Food:  As I discussed last time, the food didn't have drastic changes in selection; I just was more careful about my non-paleo, grainy/glutenous treats (namely, not choosing them), as well as carb-dense foods. About twice I went ahead and had a snack I wouldn't have usually chosen, but even Dr. Perlmutter advises in the book to just carry on after going off-plan.  In some ways, it was more flexible than I was used to, even; I was glad to bring back more cheese than I was used to, and was thrilled to purchase hummus for the first time in a long time.  (The hummus was nice to have, but I still think it messes with my stomach's acidity and I get reflux.  But what a treat!)

The "huevos rancheros" egg dish became a daily staple, likely seen on my plate at any meal of the day.


 Keep reading for the full recipe :)

Other meals frequently consisted of a protein and some non-starchy vegetables.  For example:  either salmon or chicken paired with, say, brussels sprouts, peppers, artichoke... Often this might be just tossed in a salad with some avocado, too.  (Bring on the healthy fats!!)

What I did find the most difficult, as predicted, was keeping the carbohydrate count as very low as recommended in Grain Brain.  40 grams of carbs / day is not a lot, even though I was already only eating regularly around 90-100 grams.  This challenge taught me which are my "big carb" items, and really, I think they're okay in the big picture.  My biggest carb sources were things like bananas, where just one large banana brought me up to 30 grams, already!  That's almost the full day's allowance on the Grain Brain Challenge.

Now, I don't want to become a crazy person who "watches" my bananas... (ridiculous thought!), but it was enlightening to realize how carb-dense bananas and other fruits are.

Fitness:  I don't think low-carb helped my fitness energy.  My workouts were so-so, until the weekend after the challenge, when I dove head-first into carbtastic gluten-free pasta.  That Sunday, I had one of the best workouts I've had in a long time. I even rocked the burpees, and that's saying something!! So I think for fitness, carbs may be my friend.

Sleep: I'd been having trouble sleeping before beginning the challenge, and I definitely found my sleep improving over the course of the four weeks.  Big plus!

General Health Outcomes:
Here, I have one BIG thing to say:  NO HEADACHES. No migraines. No headaches at all!

This was amazing.  I get headaches often.  Migraines come and go.  I'm usually carrying around some type of pain reliever or migraine medication with me.  Throughout the four weeks of the Grain Brain Challenge, I did not get one. single. little. headache.  Hallelujah!! 

Now, I'm not saying I know what the exact cause was.  This was not a perfectly controlled experiment, I didn't track all confounding variables. Maybe it was the lower carbohydrates, maybe it was the supplements, or maybe it was the fact that I didn't eat nuts as much this month... Whatever it is, I'm happy, and I'm going to work to figure out which it is.


My foggy-brainedness also eased up, although didn't completely disappear.  I think that it was correlated with when I was taking the supplements, although this very well may have been placebo effect... Whatever works!  Again, I'll keep experimenting.

Lastly, my pants began to feel a little loose!  Not surprising, since I stopped inhaling my favorite grainy and carb-sense snacks (which were often just boredom snacks that didn't really quench any hunger).

Do you have any of the following symptoms of gluten sensitivity?


Consider a Grain Brain Challenge to see if your symptoms improve!

What next? Going forward, I'll keep Grain Brain on my shelf and on my mind.  The supplements may have contributed to the disappearance of my headaches and foggy brain, so perhaps those will stay on my shelves, as well.  I'll be checking the book regularly, referring back to the science cited by Dr. Perlmutter and showing it to those who are confused about how grains, gluten, or carbohydrates could possibly negatively affect your health.

-----

Huevos Rancheros from Grain Brain
This classic Mexican dish has been modified so that instead of eggs served on tortillas, they are prepared over a fresh bed of greens.
Serves 2  (...Whoops. Or 1!)



Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups coarsely torn frisee (I often used a different green--whatever I had on hand)
  • 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 Tablespoons salsa
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Add the butter or olive oil to a skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, crack the eggs into the skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes for runny yolks, more for firmer yolks.  Serve the eggs over a bed of frisee and top with cheese, salsa, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

SO easy!  I actually often put the cheese and salsa right in the pan so it gets a chance to get melty and mix together.  Mmmm!!


Want more quick and easy, grain-free recipes?  Want to learn the steps to taking control of your brain health?  Find Dr. Perlmutter's book on Amazon, or visit his website at www.drperlmutter.com


DisclaimerThis post was sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Grain Brain. This post contains affiliate links, but this does not affect the content (see Disclaimer page for details). As always, the reflections and opinions expressed above are all my own.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Eat Sardines

You heard me right.


If you'd told me three years ago--or even three months ago--that I'd be writing these words, I'd have laughed, too.  In fact, recently my mother was visiting and came across them in my pantry. She was shocked and... well let's just say she wasn't excited or eager to open up a box.  I told her not to worry and she'd soon read about my foray into the world of sardines.

Why: 

You can thank these ladies (Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe) for putting sardines on my radar as a health food.  Yes, apparently sardines are incredibly nutritious!  Further research revealed that they're rich in many vitamins and minerals.  They contain vitamins A, B, C, D, and E,  and even provide about 32% of your recommended daily intake of calcium and half the daily value for DHA and EPA, two crucial types of Omega-3 fatty acids.  All this nutrition in such a tiny package... it's no wonder that they made it onto a 2008 New York Times Well list of The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating.

My box boasted that its "sardines provide 3 times more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more iron than cooked spinach, as much protein as steak, and as much potassium as bananas."  They also mention the Omega 3s, vitamin B12, selenium, and vitamin D, as well as Coenzyme Q10.

Canned fish is thus a convenient source of protein (one little can provides over 30 grams of protein!!), and I've already shared my affinity for quick and easy meals made with canned tuna and salmon.  Sardines don't even need a fork, because they come intact, which, yes, could be weird.  Fortunately, the cans I bought had the little guys beheaded already, so their little faces weren't looking up at me.


Getting started:

When you shop for your sardines, check the ingredients just like you would for any other canned foods.  Make sure the package doesn't have unnecessary ingredients.  Sardines, water, and salt sounded safe to me, so I went with Wild Planet.


Opening it up...


BEWARE!  Water.  Not unlike other canned fish, but the water came out immediately and began overflowing a bit. Be warned.

Interesting... 

I admit, I did not find this remotely appetizing, either.  But stick with me!  Read more to see how I came to enjoy my sardines:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

go Against All Grain

If you found Grain Brain interesting and began avoiding or limiting grains, then there's a valuable cookbook out there, ready to help you plan all your grain-free meals.  Even if you're NOT following a grain-free lifestyle, this cookbook has recipes that are savory, sweet, scrumptious, and sure to satisfy any taste buds.

Against All Grain


Danielle Walker's recipe book, Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great, just came out in September.  I frequently checked her website as she traveled the country on her book tour, watching and waiting to see someplace in my vicinity appear on the list.  Last month, Danielle finally took her book tour to New York City, where I joined others in a cooking lesson at Sur La Table.  All day, I'd been looking forward to my grain-free meal, and Danielle did not disappoint.


It was thrilling to see the real Danielle in person!  Her pictures and demo videos came to life, her smile radiating the whole time.  She was warm, inviting, and so friendly throughout the evening.


First, Danielle shared her own background with healthy and grain-free eating, explaining how an SCD- and paleo-based diet alleviated her Ulcerative Colitis symptoms, getting her out of the hospital, free to live her life, free of grains, gluten, dairy, and sugar.  Stories like hers and thousands of others demonstrate why doctors need to start listening, learning, and spreading the word about how dietary and lifestyle changes can improve health, beat chronic disease, and change lives.


Then, the cooking began!  The menu for the evening included butternut squash soup, zucchini noodles with bolognese sauce, rosemary breadsticks, and chocolate cake brownies.


As she demonstrated her recipes in action, Danielle explained why she uses one cooking method over another and shopping tips for what brands she recommends for certain ingredients.  She took and answered questions about the processes involved and possible ingredient substitutions.  Just a few snippets of what we learned:
- Sift coconut flour after measuring
- If you don't want to eat honey, try swapping mashed banana
- When making dough: blend, let it sit, then blend again (because of coconut flour)
- Tips for the cookbook's mayonnaise, such adding the oil slowly at first and using an immersion blender
- Great notes on what brands she trusts, uses herself, and recommends to others

Danielle Walker recommending WellBee Foods almond flour

When she explained the spiral slicer for zucchini noodles, I raised my hand to ask about using sweet potatoes; I want to dare to try soon!

The food she prepared was all delicious, and all straight out of the cookbook.  We ate:

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup




Granny Sarella's Spaghetti Sauce over zucchini noodles


(Grain-free!) Rosemary Breadsticks - Out of this world!


Dark Chocolate Cake Brownies

The rosemary breadsticks... WOW.  The soup was so warming on that cold night.  The sauce, delicious; I wanted more! I refrained from filling my bag with extra breadsticks, but did take a brownie to go. Good thing I've got the cookbook and can make my own breadsticks at home!

After the cooking and tasting was complete, we mingled and lined up to have Danielle sign our books.  It's always nice being around other locals who follow this lifestyle.  When someone wanted to know about finding bones for bone broth, another attendee was able to suggest a butcher at Chelsea Market for reasonably priced bones.  It's great having people to bond with and learn from.

As we waited to get our books signed, another attendee commented on all my Post-its in the book.  Yes, I marked it up with all the (many, many) recipes I want to try.  We laughed about the colors and organization, and she asked if I was a teacher.  Ha, actually... (yes!).

Meeting Danielle Walker, author of Against All Grain


Danielle was a pleasure to meet and was amused by my post-its, too. It just goes to show how many appealing recipes are in her book; can't wait to try them all!

I have already tried a few recipes, and loved them.  My favorite so far is probably the Braised Chicken in Artichoke-Mushroom Sauce.  As I told Danielle, I cooked it one night to pack up as lunches for the next couple days, and I took one bite just to taste test, and suddenly, it became that night's dinner, too.  It was THAT delicious!! A new favorite, for sure:


I've also made the Fried Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower, scattering them aroun my salmon.  These were excellent.


One morning, I tried my hand at Danielle's grain-free Crepes.  Some came out well and crepe-like, while others were more of a pancake form.  All were tasty!  It's been a long time since I've had anything resembling crepes or pancakes, so these were a treat.

 

Grain-free crepes with almond butter and bananas - YUM! 

It was a lovely evening, and simply a cool experience, watching a favorite blogger/recipe author cooking right in front of you!  I'd previously had no idea that Sur La Table offered these near classes, but I'd definitely go again :)

Want to see what else is in store?  Here's an inside look at Against All Grain:


Interested? Order on Amazon today!


Thank you, Danielle, for a lovely evening!


Have you cooked from Against All Grain?  What is your favorite recipe??

I purchased the book and my ticket to this event independently; this post is in no way sponsored, contains all my own opinions, and is simply intended to spread the word about a great new paleo cookbook!  This post does contain Amazon affiliate links; see Disclaimer page for details. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Love harder, hold tighter

Dare you to watch this video from Shots of Awe by Jason Silva.

Dare you to hear his message.

Dare you to love harder, hold tighter, and refuse to let go: