6.27.2013

Baked and buttered eggs--the really easy way

I had never heard of baked buttered eggs until my wife and I read Jennifer McLagan's book Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes (some high points summarized in this post). Her recipe for baked eggs was the classic European recipe for eggs baked in ramekins in the oven. (I've found similar recipes on The Kitchn, the New York Times, and the Barefoot Contessa. The premise is simple, as said in the NYT piece: "Put one egg in a ramekin with almost any other ingredients you like, then bake it just until the white sets. That's pretty much it.")

The recipe in Fat was pretty simple--eggs, butter, chives or green onion, bacon, salt/pepper. All tasty, Paleo-friendly ingredients, and a great breakfast treat! But, sometimes we want breakfast to be even easier than that, and we've found a method that's even simpler and makes a really delicious easy breakfast protein.

With such tasty and healthy core ingredients (eggs, butter, sea salt), this is practically the perfect Paleo [fancy] egg recipe! The yolks come out runny, too, which is even better for you since the fat/cholesterol hasn't been oxidized which makes it available to your body to use instead of promoting inflammation. We Paleo/Bulletproof Diet folks love our runny yolks. (There is even a very popular Instagram hashtag for #yolkporn.)

So here's how we've made simple buttered eggs a couple times recently:


Baked Buttered Eggs Recipe

  • 4 ramekins
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp butter (we use Kerrygold grassfed cow butter)
  • Sea salt, pepper
Heat the oven to 350. Fill a large glass baking dish about halfway with water.

Lightly butter the ramekins. Carefully crack one egg into each, keeping the yolks whole. Plop 1 tbsp butter on top of each raw egg. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Put the ramekins into the baking dish filled with water. Bake 15 - 20 minutes. (Because of the melted butter, eggs may not look "done." Poke the white with a spoon--once it's firm, they are done.)

Serves 2. Yum! We like to eat with greens sauteed with bacon. The butter and egg combination is so delicious!

...and, eggs and butter are good for you!


Pastured Eggs:

Eggs are awesome because they're one of natures super foods! Eggs are one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and according to Chris Kresser, "Eggs one of the most nutrient-dense foods available. One egg provides 13 essential nutrients, all in the yolk (contrary to popular belief, the yolk is far higher in nutrients than the white)." Check out Chris's article "Three eggs a day keep the doctor away" for the full scoop. If you're into Paleo thinking you know that the cholesterol in eggs is beneficial to our bodies and brains, and that eating cholesterol rich foods has not been shown to increase your blood cholesterol levels. To me, this makes eggs an essential part of the diet, and a seriously awesome food.

Grassfed Butter:

Butter (from grassfed cows) is not only a great treat, but it's one of the best foods for you! Compared to regular butter grassfed butter is loaded with omega 3's and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a compound that  helps your body build muscle rather than store fat! Among other benefits, such as delicious taste, grassfed butter is also chock full of vitamin D, E and K2. Check this article "Butter is Better for Your Brain...And Now Your Heart" for the complete rundown.

Sea Salt:

Sea salt is incredibly awesome. If you get natural salt, not the kind that's chemically produced in a lab, your getting the best salt taste along with a bunch of other minerals that are present. In my post A Typical Upgraded Paleo Diet Day (Part 1) I talk about how I make sure to get salt in the mornings to help balance my adrenals, and how Himalayan sea salt is the most mineral rich, purest salt in the world. I've since learned that salt plays a key role in maintaining your hydration in your body, so it's absolutely essential to life!

6.20.2013

The Benefits of Flossing



Man, do I suck at imposing structure on myself. It's really hard to be disciplined, and it seems like the smaller the thing, the harder it is to be consistent. I was just talking to my dad about this today and I realized that the most consistent thing in my life, a thing I've done every day now for a year, is flossing.

Back in the fall I decided to cut the BS and start flossing every day. I was sick of having dentists tell me to floss more, I know it's good for me, and it sucks to start doing it because your gums are sensitive at first. So, I decided to just do it every day so that I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. The little bit of time and effort would be worth it because I wouldn't have to spend precious brain resources thinking about how I should be flossing, and feeling bad about failing. Now, I know this is a silly example of self discipline...

It's a very small thing, and by itself it's not going to help me conquer any of the bigger things I want to do. However, it was significant for me because for so many years before I had constantly been piecing everything together every single day. I didn't have consistent time for sleep, eating, exercise, work, friends... the list goes on. The routines I would try to establish were weak, and would fall apart quickly. My motivation would start incredibly strong and then fade to nothing by the next day. Only now am I realizing the true, lasting value of sticking to a routine through thick and thin.

Only through flossing am I learning the higher order level of satisfaction and pleasure that comes with discipline and resolve. There were many times I could have fallen off. The time I ran out of floss and had no plans to leave the house that evening. A trip where I forgot to bring my pack of flossers and could have easily said, "Oh, well..." The times when I was tired, late, busy, or distracted that would have so willingly taken me to my downfall. Through all this, I persevered. Through this, I continued to floss.

Now, I've started other routines since then and I haven't fallen off of all of them. I've been consistently exercising, meditating, and sleeping. However, I find myself squeezing meditation in at any time in the day that it fits, I don't go to jiu jitsu or CrossFit on the same days every week, and I'm still not feeling like I'm getting enough sleep, so there's real improvements to be made. I think the example of flossing works here because even though I don't floss at exactly the same time every day I always do so just before getting into bed and after brushing my teeth. Every single day that's how it goes.

It's this level of dedication and consistency that has lifted the burden of doing the task off my shoulders, so my plan is to implement a more strict routine into some of my other activities. I'm going to pick 2 days a week for jiu jitsu and stick to it. I'm going to find a time every day to meditate and stick to it, and I'm going to develop a sleeping routine where I can lock into a familiar, comfortable, productive pattern and get the sleep I need. I know it might be hard and I may stumble along the way, but flossing has shown me that these kind of routines are worth it.

(Also, oral health can have a huge impact on other parts of health as well, so I'm setting myself up for optimum health and feeling good in other ways, too. Two interesting podcasts on this on Underground Wellness--this interview about healing your mouth and this one about crazy stuff that can live in our mouths.)

6.17.2013

Mobility and Functional Human Movement

Mobility and Awesomeness:

Proper nutrition, stress management and exercise are all hugely important parts of being an awesome, optimized human being, but if you think that's all there is to it, you're missing a big piece of the puzzle. If you have issues with posture, flexibility and range of motion in your joints and tissues the exercise you're doing is probably doing more harm than good in the long term, and you're setting yourself up for increased chance of injury even when doing common every day movements let alone when you put your body under physical strain by lifting weights, running or playing sports. 

So, beyond nutrition, stress and exercise we need to include mobility and functional movement in our focus. That's where chiropractic care can really become essential. If you're having any persistent pain in any area of your body, not just the spine, I'd recommend seeing a chiropractor to get an idea of what is causing the problem and with their help you can relieve most acute musculoskeletal issues. 
MobilityWOD

Bring Out Your Inner Jungle Cat:

However, we should also be focused on prevention and improvement, and not wait for little problems to become huge issues through inaction. That's where Kelly Starrett from mobilitywod.com comes in. This guy is my new favorite health proffesional, and I've been feeling really good and solving some of my issues by following his advice. He's physical therapist who works with high levels athletes, and the author of the recently published, textbook sized tome Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance.

However, you don't have to buy the book to get started improving your joints, walking better and releasing tension from your tight, stiff body. He's got over 500 short videos on his website detailing various problems that people have and ways to mobilize and improve those areas. I've used several of the techniques demonstrated in his videos and have been having great results. I notice less stiffness in general but especially after workout days, my flexibility and comfort in different positions has improved quickly and my body just feels more resilient in general.

All of his videos are awesome, but I would definitely check out these to get an idea of what he's about:

Oh, he's also hilarious and just fun to listen to. Lastly, there's a long but awesome overview of his principles of human movement in this video: Check it out, improve your mobility, be awesome!

6.13.2013

Paleo beginner? Read "Your Primal Body: The Paleo Way to Living Lean, Fit, and Healthy at Any Age" by Mikki Reilly


I recently got a copy of this book from the library and after reading through it I'm sure I'm going to buy it on Amazon soon. Your Primal Body: The Paleo Way to Living Lean, Fit, and Healthy at Any Age by Mikki Reilly is the best book I've found for giving a broad, complete look at the core concepts of a Paleo-inspired lifestyle. She brings a huge amount of personal and professional experience as a former professional bodybuilder and current certified fitness trainer, and goes in depth into the key aspects of Paleo that everyone needs to know.

There are tons of books on nutrition, exercise, stress management, supplementation, sleep, as well as about a million Paleo cookbooks, but nothing I've seen so far does a good job at covering all of those topics in an extremely accessible way that's perfect for the beginner. I'm working on putting up a page with my best book recommendations across different topics, and there are a lot of them, but if I was going to recommend one book for somebody who was just starting to explore the Paleo lifestyle it would be this one.

She covers diet, supplementation, muscle-building, and weight loss among other things and she includes exercises and recipes as well. Beyond any one topic, however, her descriptions of various ideas like the importance of Vitamin D, the problems with grains, and the basic concept of following an ancestral diet are easy to understand, and complete enough to give the reader a real sense of what living Paleo is all about. Don't get me wrong, I learned a lot from this book, and I already have a good background in Paleo concepts, so it's not strictly for beginners. It's just that the way it's laid out, and the broad scope of topics mixed with thorough explanation along the way made me wish I'd had this book when I first started.

So, whether you're totally new to Paleo or just want to fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge definitely check this out. It's pretty cheap on Amazon, and it'll really come in handy as a reference to core concepts, as well as a way to introduce beginners to the Paleo lifestyle. (Also check out Mikki's website, Fitness Transform, here.)

6.11.2013

A Typical Upgraded Paleo Day (Part 2)

For part 2 of this series (see Part 1 here, for more about morning practices) I'm going to lay out some of the things that are a part of my mid-day routine. It's relatively simple, so here goes.

Get moving, stretch your eyes, and absorb vitamin D:

Around the middle of the day I like to take a break from my work on the computer, get outside and stretch my limbs. There's a bunch of stuff that's really beneficial about doing this, and it feels great. First of all, on these sunny June days I like to get some Vitamin D from the sunshine, which is best to do once the sun is higher in the sky because you get more of the correct rays for Vitamin D absorption. I also take this opportunity to stand barefoot in the grass and do some stretches. This gets my body moving, gets my eyes away from the screen, and just feels like a good reset.

Strength training exercise:

Once I'm done with this I will often do a quick workout to help build muscle and release some stress. This usually will involve a set of body weight squats, situps, pushups and a quick run to get everything pumping. I've been learning a lot about exercise in Body by Science by Doug McGuff recently, and it's helped me a lot to realize the huge long-term benefits of building muscle, and the downfalls of only doing steady-state cardio.  When you build muscle you also increase strength; being stronger and having more muscle is associated with so many other benefits:

  • Gastrointestinal transit time
  • Resting metabolism
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Release of body fat stores
  • Cholesterol (blood lipid) levels 
  • Blood pressure
  • Bone mineral density 
  • Arthritis and lower back pain
  • Flexibility

Now, the exercise that Doug McGuff recommends is high intensity and only once a week or so, to give your body adequate time to recover, so that's not a daily thing. So once or twice a week I've been doing CrossFit with my wife, which has been giving me the high intensity workout I need, and I've being taking Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes which are a great way to learn a sport and use your body in a functional way. When I want to give myself a test, or I feel like using my muscles, I'll do this simple body weight routine:
  • 40 body weight squats
  • 30 situps
  • 20 pushups
  • 10 jumping pullups (I usually find a doorway or something for this, and just try to get the correct muscles firing)

This formulation is a basic CrossFit test of overall fitness level, but I've adapted it to work as a daily practice. In CrossFit you try and do it as quickly as you can, whereas in my every day I don't go as hard, just enough to get everything moving and work on my technique.

Food, macronutrients depending on physical activity level:

After this I eat some lunch consisting usually of leftovers from the previous dinner, but the basic parts are the same: veggies, meat, and fat. I don't tend to do any starchy carbs in the afternoon unless I just exercised intensely. Normally I save those for dinner time, saving the highest carbohydrate foods for post-workout. Today for lunch I had some broccoli, a couple of eggs, and some bone broth. A light lunch, but I find it makes me feel solid until dinner. 

Leftovers for lunch (my Instagram)

6.07.2013

Visit to The Meating Place

This last weekend my wife and I went to an awesome new (old) butcher shop in Hillsboro, just outside Portland. It's actually the reopening of a shop that was closed by the original owner in 1998. Casey Miller, a butcher who started out working at the original shop in the 90's, reopened the full service store in April 2013. My wife and I heard about this in The Oregonian and we had to go check it out! They have a bunch of local, quality meat options, including 100% grassfed beef, and they process all the (whole) animals right in the shop (and make their own sausage, etc.). If you're interested in supporting a local business who supports the grassfed, sustainable approach to meat production, check this place out! Check out their website here and, if you're local, visit them off of Cornelius Pass Road in Hillsboro.

Here are some photos from our trip:


They make all their own sausage and smoked/cured products like bacon, bratwurst and even elk pepperoni sticks!

They had a freezer full of raw dog food (made from the organ meats/offal and other extras from the animals they process there), and huge beef bones! They labeled them for dogs, but we knew we could make some awesome bone broth with them.

We also got a couple different types of sausage which all ended up being delicious!

Here's our bag of bones before going into the pot for bone broth. We mixed them with some pork bones we got from one of the farms we've bought from. It was some of the tastiest, fattiest broth we've ever made!

We know there are a TON of quality meat processors/charcuterie shops in Portland--we have plenty more to check out. But definitely, visit The Meating Place if you're ever out that direction. We want to try their BBQ Saturdays sometime, too!

6.05.2013

Foods we're throwing out

I wrote this post with my wife--we wanted to talk about how our grocery habits have changed since adopting a Paleo/Bulletproof diet, and she's more into the cooking and shopping.

People say when they decided to go Paleo, they raided the cupboards and threw out a bunch of non-Paleo foods. We didn't really do that at our house, since we haven't bought processed foods like cereal, crackers, bread, milk (yes, store-bought milk is processed), yogurt, etc in a long time. But, there are a few foods we've realized we will never feel good about eating again. Here are some of them and why!


Canola oil.

We know that heavily processed vegetable oils are not a good source of fat--these unsaturated fats not only oxidize easily (once fats oxidize, the body can't use or process them and they are toxic and act more like a plastic than a fat, and are stored in fat cells), but they are heavily processed from rapeseeds, which are typically genetically modified. The unstable unsaturated fats in these oils leads to inflammation and stored fat. Yuck. (There's a good post on this on Balanced Bites if you want more info, and  very thorough post on vegetable oil and margarine on Wellness Mama.)

So throwing out canola oil seems like a "duh" for most hard-core Paleo and Bulletproof Diet folks, but we had just bought a big bottle not long before starting our grassfed butter, coconut oil, and lard cooking methods. My wife remembers reading a comparison that said that canola oil was healthier than olive oil because it had less saturated fat--but, of course, we know now that we want the saturated fat (our bodies and cells are made of it and know what to do with it), and of course they're both a little high in Omega-6 fats. But that's another story. Still, the labels on the cooking and vegetable oils at the store are incredibly misleading and advertise being "heart-healthy" and other terms they throw around. We made the mistake of falling for these claims! Unfortunately, the best place for this bottle is in the trash!

(We also recently threw out some "0 calorie" nonstick cooking spray. The stuff costs like $1 and supposedly contains no calories or fat, but keeps foods from sticking to the pan... doesn't sound like a real food to me. Out in the trash!)

Condiments with scary oils in them.

The mayo isn't so bad, really--mostly eggs and oil, right? But it's highly processed, artificial vegetable oils, just like the canola oil. Corn and/or cottonseed oils are common in condiments like this, and the Beaver brand horseradish (local company, so should be better quality, right? Nope...) has partially hydrogenated soybean oil in it--the worst. We know we'll never want to eat this stuff again. Those damaged unsaturated fats are of no use to our bodies--the body doesn't know what the heck to do with it and so stores it, as fat. Bad stuff. We've learned to make our own Paleo mayonnaise easily in the blender, and it's delicious! Very simple, too.

Soy products.

We used to drink a LOT of soy milk (my wife is sensitive to dairy proteins in milk and yogurt), put tofu in our stir-frys, and sometimes have soy-based snacks like edamame and sometimes processed foods containing soy products. We always figured soy was a "health" food, right? Protein, all that?

Unfortunately, no. Even preliminary research on whole foods diets comes up with facts about soy--in Asian cultures, where it is known for coming from, tofu and processed soy products are used for low quality animal feed, fertilizer!, and plastics. There's a great Dr. Mercola video on soy, thyroid, estrogen, and weight gain that summarizes these reasons. It's so sad how much we rely on soy products, and how harmful they are--one scary fact is, soy formula for babies can have levels of phytoestrogens that are 20,000x higher than birth control pills, and are high in toxic minerals like managenese and aluminum in high concentrations--yikes. Not good for adults, either!

Miso, like the nice non-GMO one above, is fermented and so may be less harmful than other soy products, but still, we don't feel good about eating it anymore. We haven't used it in ages and probably never will!

Flax seeds.

We used to use flax seeds in all kinds of things--dehydrated/raw vegan crackers (we still make them but use other nuts and seeds as the base instead), ground in an old coffee grinder and put into smoothies, added as thickener... but now are thinking the pros (Omega-3s) don't outweigh the cons (phyotestrogens, oxidization). Stefani Ruper wrote a great piece on phytoestrogens on Paleo for Women, and a post on flax and other phytoestrogens here.

Other foods we've thrown out already (not all pictured):

  • Table salt. Morton brand, the basic stuff. Regular table salt isn't really salt at all--it's lab-created sodium mixed with toxic aluminum anti-caking agents. We have completely switched to sea salt and now use it for everything, from cooking to baking to salting our food at the table. Our favorite is pink Himalayan salt, but we have several kinds of sea salt in the cupboard for different uses. (Check out Chris Kresser's article Shaking Up the Salt Myth) People often ask about the lack of iodine in our diets which is provided through table salt, so if you only eat sea salt where, do you get your iodine?? It turns out that if you eat fatty fish or seaweed, like some cultures do all the time, you can get your iodine naturally, but my wife also supplements with it on a recommendation from our naturopath. (Check out my blog post Thyroid and Brain Boosting Supplements for more on iodine.)
  • Ketchup. We had high fructose corn syrup-free ketchup, but it was still processed, full of sugar, and not many vitamins. So we found out how to make our own and it's much better! Check out my wife's homemade ketchup tutorial post for the recipe.
  • Peanut butter. We used to get this freshly ground in bulk, and it's delicious, but we've been opting to not get it because peanuts are a starchy legume, not a protein and healthy fat packed nut! Now we prefer almond butter, which we often make from home! Check out my wife's homemade almond butter and almond meal post/tutorial for more info.
  • Non-stick cookware. It's not a food, no, but we long ago decided that the risk of Teflon exposure wasn't worth it. Now we cook our eggs in plenty of butter, coconut oil, or lard from grassfed animals. (Chris Kresser did a great comparison of the best and worst cookware materials here.)

We've also stopped cooking with olive oil completely. Olive oil is a good source of fat (although high in Omega-6s, so we try to eat more animal fats than we do vegetable fats), but it oxidizes at a very low temperature and becomes damaged easily. This a pretty widely known even outside the Paleo community, but after seeing this info everywhere we turn on Paleo posts about fat, we've fully accepted it. (Post about damaged fats and cooking here.) The "Bulletproof" method of cooking something like vegetables where you would normally sautee in oil is to wilt them on low with no liquid at all in the pan. Once they cook a little they produce their own liquid and don't burn. Then you add the fat right before serving. We do this with mirepoix for soups, meatloaves, shepherd's pie, etc. and it works great. (This is discussed in more detail in the Upgraded Chef eBook.)

We've made these changes gradually and are feeling really good about the emphasis we can put on higher quality foods! It doesn't feel like a sacrifice and it's not more expensive. The markup on processed foods is huge, anyway, so we get more for our buck from homemade and whole food options!

Are there any foods you used to rely on or buy often, but have stopped buying for health optimization reasons??
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