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Primal Beginner’s Q&A: What to eat for breakfast

Question:

Hi Peter, I spent last evening scouring your blog and planning to start things off, and, duly inspired,started this morning by cutting out milk from drinks, and have had none of the other non paleo items, which has been great much to my surprise considering how much I usually eat in the dairy/pasta/bread/grain family. I did, however, find myself scratching my head somewhat at breakfast time, wondering what the breadth of choice is in this area…..so, my question is – what sorts of things do you have for breakfast? I went for a couple of eggs in the end, but shouldn’t think it’s wise to plump for that each day. I did look up a couple of websites, and whilst they had sample eating plans, they were rather more exotic that my lifestyle affords me to be….I thought of mushrooms, obviously cold meats (which is a continental thing isn’t it?). I don’t fancy veg for breakfast really….so, I wondered what sorts of breakfasts you usually have???

Look forward to your thoughts….

Richard

Answer:

Firstly, congratulations on getting started, Richard.

Most mornings I have 2-3 rashers of bacon along with 4 eggs either scrambled in butter or fried sunny side up in coconut oil. Some mornings I supplement this with a bowl of full fat greek yoghurt. Other mornings, I will have a salad of whatever vegetables we have in the fridge. I dress my salad in olive oil, lemon juice and I season it with a little salt. I particularly like salads that include some avocado. I also sometimes have spinach or mushrooms.

I consider eggs one of the best wholefoods around, and I eat in the region of 25-30 a week. I used to eat more when I was really focused on weight loss.

Some people are concerned about the high cholesterol in egg yolks, but studies have shown dietary cholesterol does not increase your blood cholesterol materially. Here is one such study: link

If your doctor insists eggs raise your risk of heart disease, then I would say it’s time to look for another doctor. It’s a good indication that he or she does not bother to follow developments in medical research, and personally I would not want to discuss my health with a doctor who is intellectually lazy. But each to his own, off course. You can also refer your doctor to this blog post if the topic of cholesterol comes up: link

If you can afford it, I would go for the best quality produce. This means organic free range eggs and nitrate free bacon. But, on balance, it is more important to eliminate the grains and sugar from your diet than worry about every breakfast ingredient being organic.

Paleo/Primal dieters, who are more purist than I, consider bacon a processed food and will either not eat it at all, or try not to eat it every day. To get around this I hear a lot of primal dieters say they make extra dinner in the evening, and have the leftovers for breakfast the following morning. I sometimes do this also. I personally think it is ok to eat bacon regularly, though, and I never seem to tire of it. It feels like a treat every time I have it!

For anyone who is about to start a paleo inspired diet, I strongly recommend taking a blood test early on, and to repeat it after 4-6 weeks. After this inital period, I would test every 3-6 months. You are about to make some dramatic changes to your diet, and blood tests will help spot if your physiology responds adversely in any way. I predict your health markers will improve along with your body composition, but every person is different. In the beginning there is also the possibility that you get one or two things wrong and don’t make the progress you expected. A blood test will give you clues about what to change to get back on track.

You should also bear in mind that I am not medically qualified. I am just some guy who had some success loosing weight. You should not take my advice (nor anybody else’s for that matter) without testing independently that your body is responding well to your new diet.

I am about to have a new blood test, Here are the health markers I plan to request. The last four on this list are not generally included in a standard blood test and some may be unfamiliar to some doctors:

  • HDL cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerites (low is best)
  • Fasting serum insulin
  • Blood glucose
  • High sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • HbA1c
  • Omega-6/Omega-3 blood assay
  • Vitamin D3

It is also worth exploring the materials I provide links to in my blog posts. Aside from changing your diet, the best thing you can do for your health is to be curious about how your body works and what is good for it. I would also invest a little money and little time reading a book by one of the leading lights in the ancestral health movement. Here is a list of my current Top 3 books on ancestral health: link

If you want more inspiration for Paleo/Primal breakfast dishes, here is a cookbook we use a lot in my family:

“Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals” by Mark Sisson

Hope that helps. Good luck and keep the questions coming!

Peter

Must-read article: High cholesterol and heart disease – myth or truth?

Many people believe dietary fat increases cholesterol and that this leads to heart disease. In the medical establishment this is known as the Lipid Hypothesis. A growing number of research scientists now believe this hypothesis is oversimplified and mostly wrong. Despite this, most doctors still advocate a low-fat diet rich in wholegrain along with a preference for vegetable oils over animal fats.

Chris Masterjohn has made a name for himself on the blogosphere by addressing common misconceptions about cholesterol.  In this article he analyses the available literature on the topic, and gives his view on what the real truth is.

“High cholesterol and heart disease – myth or truth”

Ask your doctor to read this if he or she has concerns about the fat content of a Primal diet.

Here is also a brief video primer:

How I lost 68 Lbs eating plenty of saturated fat

If you have tried low-fat approaches to fat loss, it may surprise you how I lost weight. I consumed plenty of saturated fat and I didn’t count calories or even track the macro nutrients I consumed.

And it is important to emphasise that I have not only lost weight. All my health markers improved, including my blood cholesterol, which goes counter to what many health professionals would have predicted.

I know this may sound too good to be true. Especially, if you have tried a multitude of diets that promised so much but ended in failure. Can it really be that easy?

I will let you judge whether this approach is easy or hard. It depends on your personal circumstances, I suppose.

Here is my 7-step eating plan:

  1. My diet consists of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and vegetables.
  2. I mainly eat things that are prepared from scratch (mostly by my very supportive wife) and we try to use ingredients that are local and/or organic.
  3. I avoid all grains, tubers and legumes. This means cutting out bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans and lentils.
  4. I also avoid drinks that contain calories. I do not drink fruit juices, milk or sodas, nor do I take any sugar or other sweetener in hot drinks. I do make one small exception to this rule. I enjoy the odd alcoholic drink once or twice a week. I tend to mostly drink red wine.
  5. I restrict the amount of carbohydrate in my diet. This happens more or less by itself if you follow points 1 to 3 above. The only additional measures I take is to avoid sugar and I also eat very little fruit. Periodically, I spot check my carbohydrates, so I know my daily consumption is between 30g and 60g per day.
  6. I make sure I get plenty of fats from meats and wild fish. I supplement this with coconut oil and butter for cooking. I use olive oil for salad dressings. I avoid all other vegetable and nut oils.
  7. I eat when I am hungry and I eat as much as I need to be full.

Those of you who have studied low-carb and/or paleolithic nutrition will recognise this diet. There is nothing particularly original in what I practice. Researchers and thought leaders like Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Art Devany and others all recommend diets that are similar to this with minor variations. There is plenty of information available on this and I recommend you study the writings of these men.

You will also notice that there is no mention of exercise in my plan. I do exercise, but the truth is exercise is not strictly necessary to loose weight. I will discuss this further in future articles.

I would also like to make an obvious but important point here. Loosing weight is not just about what you eat.  If your head is not in the right place, it is very hard to change a life-time of unhealthy habits. Watch this blog for future articles about how I stayed the course by changing the way I think about diet and life-style.

Further Reading

Here are some links to on-line resources that explain the basics of paleo/primal diet and exercise principles.

Modern Paleo Principles by Diana Hsieh

Mark Sisson Primal Blueprint 101

Robb Wolf FAQ page

Loren Cordain FAQ page

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