Hello! I'm Naz, the writer, recipe developer and photographer behind the blog Cinnamon Eats. My blog is based on mainly sharing recipes for those following a Paleo lifestyle or for those people who just want to eat REAL food! I'm going to assume that not all of you reading this post are too familiar with what Paleo is exactly, but before I go into that I want to tell you about my story and how I came to eating and living this way.
Growing up I was lucky to live in a household where home cooked meals were the main staple and eating out at fast food places was done every now and then, but that's not to say that what I was eating back then was healthy. Just as it was for many families I'm sure, we used our fair share of vegetable oils and margarine spreads, as well as of course some boxed and highly processed foods. Of course there was also the lunch orders and foods I used to eat from the canteen at school and just like most girls, at one point in my life I started to worry about the way I looked and how much I weighed.
During my high school and university years I stuck to the mainstream notion of a low-fat (especially saturated fat) and high-carb diet, I made sure everything I bought from the supermarket had the words low-fat or no-fat written on it, I ate my 'heart-healthy-whole-grains' and avoided my 'artery-clogging-saturated-fats'. I ordered skim-milk lattes or soy-milk lattes at cafés and pasta and bread where staples in my diet.
The thing is, even though I was eating these so called 'healthy' foods, I was suffering on the side, I had constant issues with stomach aches, bloating, indigestion and poor bowel movements. This went on for years and years, and no doctor could tell me exactly what the problem was, most of them just told me to eat more whole-grains and reduce my fat intake!
Even after graduating from university I still thought a lot about my weight and stuck to the conventional wisdom of more exercise and less food, but of course that didn't help. For about 4 months before my wedding I survived mostly on diet shakes, just so I could fit into my wedding dress, I remember my dressmaker joking that I couldn't afford to put on any weight if I wanted my dress to fit! Of course after that I was stressed out about the fact that I might end up putting on weight so I stuck to those shakes, without knowing how much damage they were actually doing! I look back now on my wedding photos and while I love the way I looked and have nothing but happy memories of the day, I definitely look at myself and think WOW I could have done with some weight on me!
Fast forward to April 2011 and my husband and I had just moved to America and due to visa restrictions I was unable to work for a while. I have always enjoyed cooking, but didn't really get into it until I got married, so I decided to fill my time by starting up a blog, back then my blog wasn't called Cinnamon Eats, and it was something I created mainly for myself and didn't really think anyone was going to read it. It was just a way for me to document my recipes, using my iPhone as a camera to take the photos (thank goodness I have a decent camera and better food photography knowledge now... yikes!).
Even though I was cooking at home and we were eating those home cooked meals, my digestion still continued to suffer. I seeked treatment from a GP in Michigan, where we were based but all he did was put my on antibiotics and well those definitely are not ideal for good gut health, which is a EXTREMELY important! Things started to change towards the end of 2011 when I was reading a blog post from Sarah Wilson regarding the idea of quitting sugar. She had set out an 8 week guideline of what to eat to help you get over your sugar cravings, which I definitely had. She also suggested switching low-fat foods like skim-milk for their full-fat equivalents and ditching vegetable oils and instead using things like coconut oil to cook with, which I thought was completely crazy!
Even though I thought it was crazy, I really had nothing to lose by eating this way for 8 weeks, it wasn't like I was feeling the best, with my digestion issues, afternoon sugar crashes and trying to keep my eyes open at 3pm! So I stuck to the 8 weeks and while I definitely noticed some improvement in how I felt, I still wasn't fully there, so I started to dig deeper and do my own research, which is when I stumbled upon the Whole30. The Whole30 is basically a 30 day program that eliminates added sugar of any form, alcohol, grains (including gluten-free grains), legumes, white potatoes, carrageenan (often found in store bought non-dairy milks like almond milk), MSG, sulfites, dairy (except ghee/clarified butter) and no desserts/treats!
I didn't think I could do it, eliminating all of those foods at once, but I decided to challenge myself and go for it anyway! I stuck to the program and while it was REALLY tough for the first few weeks I started to see benefits from it, including things like better skin, more energy, and improved digestion. It wasn't until after the 30 days when I started to slowly, at the advice of the program, reintroduce the foods that I had taken out, that I truly became aware of how they were affecting me. Gluten, for e.g. is a big problem for me, we've all heard of coeliac disease, or know someone with it but did you know there's also something called non coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)? It can't be tested for like coeliac can be, but many people suffer from it without knowing, and the only way to know is if you eliminate all gluten from your diet for 30-60 days then reintroduce it. Legumes make my stomach bloat and send me running to the bathroom and I don't do well with too much dairy, but I can eat small amounts of hard cheeses like feta or parmesan and use grass-fed butter. Sugar, is also an issue for me, even if it's in the form of honey or maple syrup and even too much fruit can cause me problems.
Anyway once I found out about my intolerances to these foods, I became even more curious and did some more research, I eventually learnt that the way I was eating had a name... Paleo or Primal, a term coined by Mark Sisson. It was at this point that I decided to change the way I cooked, the ingredients I used and from there I started to blog and share my Paleo recipes.
So now that you know my background and how I came to this lifestyle, let me tell you exactly what Paleo is all about.
What is Paleo?
Unless you've been living under a rock... or in a cave ;) I'm pretty sure you may have heard about 'The Paleo diet' or as the media likes to call it 'The caveman diet'. Unfortunately if your only source of information regarding Paleo is from the mainstream media then a lot of the information you're getting is just plain misleading! Some of the media would like to have you believe that all us Paleo followers do is eat meat, meat and more meat, others would have you believe that we don't use salt in our cooking, that we only use olive oil to cook with and that we trim the fat off our steaks and eat only lean meats and low carb (this way of thinking stems largely from the original, 'The Paleo Diet' book by Dr. Loren Cordain which has since been revised).
As someone who has been following this lifestyle, who reads extensively on the topic and who is in touch with other people in this community, including some of the more prominent bloggers, I can tell you that this representation of what Paleo is, is not correct!
So then what is Paleo?
- Eating whole unprocessed foods.
- Trying your best to eat locally and seasonally.
- Eating grass-fed and pasture raised animals as often as you can.
- Eating organ meats from these animals as much as you can.
- Eating sustainable forms of seafood, especially cold water, oily fish.
- Eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables (preferably organic).
- Eating/drinking fermented foods (preferably homemade) like sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha for good gut health.
- Making your own stock using the bones and meat of animals raised in their natural environment (grass-fed cows, pasture raised pigs etc).
- Using healthy fats like grass-fed butter, pastured lard, tallow, pastured chicken fat, coconut oil, olive oil, macadamia oil in you cooking and dressings.
- Including dairy (yes dairy is fine if you tolerate it!) in the form of raw, grass-fed, organic and full-fat dairy.
- Ditching the industrial seed oils like canola, vegetable and safflower oils.
- Using unrefined sources of sweeteners like raw/organic honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar in place of refined sugars, like white sugar.
- Eliminating gluten and legumes from your diet (n.b. some people can tolerate non-gluten containing grains like rice or legumes in their diet, but these should be prepared properly by soaking, or soaking and sprouting to make them more readily digestible, please note that when it comes to nutrient density grains and legumes are much lower down the list than good quality sources of protein and fruits and vegetables).
- Not just a diet but a lifestyle, other key factors to this way of life are exercise/movement, managing stress and getting good quality sleep.
- Getting adequate levels of Vitamin D, which is not so easy to do living in the UK! You can get Vitamin D from food sources such as egg yolks (yes people PLEASE eat the yolk! They contain the most nutrients found in the egg and contrary to popular belief won't give you heart disease!), fatty fish, pastured pork and good quality sources of cod liver oil. During the summer months, or when there is adequate sun out, you can get Vitamin D by going outside and exposing larger parts of your skin (legs, arms, torso) to the sun, making sure you don't stay out too long to get burnt. During times of low sun you can supplement with a good quality Vitamin D3 supplement, just be sure to take it with food that contains healthy fat, like grass-fed butter since Vitamin D works in synthesis with Vitamin K2. You can also get supplements that have Vitamin D3 and K2 together.
- Enjoying life! Surrounding yourself with loved ones, getting outside and playing (it's not just for kids!).
- Minimising the amount of desserts and treats you have, even if they are made with 'paleo' ingredients.
- Not inherently low carb! A lot of people assume Paleo is a low carb diet, which again goes back to when the Paleo diet first came about. When compared to the standard diet, Paleo is by contrast low carb, or low in processed carbohydrates, but again it's not LOW carb. Paleo sources of dense carbohydrates include sweet potatoes, plantains and cassava. If you're someone who is looking to lose weight it's best to reduce the amount of dense carbs you eat, on the other hand if you're at your ideal weight or you're an athlete including these carbohydrate sources is fine and beneficial.
So there you have it, a basic run down of what Paleo is. I hope this post will set the record straight on some of the possible misinformation regarding Paleo and possibly spark your curiosity and interest in the topic.
If you are interested in learning more or just want to get in touch you can connect with me through my blog, Facebook page or Twitter.