We are honored to receive a guest post by Louise Hendon from PaleoMagazine.com. In this post, Louise shares her story about going Paleo over 6 years ago. She is Chinese by heritage, but she grew up in England and now lives mostly in the US.
What is Paleo and Why Would Any Respectable Asian Eat This Way?
Whenever I try explaining the Paleo diet to any of my Asian friends, I usually get a blank stare.
Then they’d tell me “Wow – I could never do that! I simply love [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH A NON-PALEO FOOD] too much.”
They would tell me that they couldn’t live without rice or dim sum. And definitely not without wheat noodles and cookies.
That was exactly what I thought when I first heard about Paleo. Why would I ever give up all the foods I love?
And yet I eventually did give up all of those foods…
While in law school, my skinny Asian genes started to give out on me, and I began to gain weight. Ack… And to say that I hate counting calories is a massive understatement.
So even though a Paleo diet initially sounded a little bit crazy to me, I was motivated enough that I decided to give it a try. It was certainly a better option than drinking green juices and eating salads all day long.
But I can’t lie… It was tough at first. I started by just cutting out bread, pasta, rice, noodles, and desserts from my diet. And based on what I’d been eating before that, I was left with pretty much nothing to eat.
And that’s a huge problem for many people who are just starting a Paleo diet – they’re so used to eating cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner, that when you cut out those “essentials,” it often feels like there’s nothing to eat. That’s why websites like http://iheartumami.com are so helpful when you’re starting out – seeing the variety of delicious foods that other Paleo Asians are preparing is both inspiring and educational!
As I started to learn more about Paleo, I realized that the caveman stories were cute, but that Paleo was really just a diet that emphasized eating more nutritious, whole, unprocessed foods like meat and vegetables (which are – ironically – the exact ingredients in most traditional Chinese stir-fries).
In fact, most of my aunts and uncles in China still eat a diet that’s pretty close to Paleo – they cook everything from scratch and primarily stick to a diet of fresh fish, meats, seasonal vegetables, and fresh fruits (which are all foods highly emphasized on a Paleo diet).
What Is Allowed and Not Allowed On Paleo?
Most people agree that the following categories of food are considered Paleo: vegetables, seafood, meats, nuts, seeds, and fruits.
And these categories are usually considered not to be Paleo: grains (wheat, corn, etc.), legumes (beans, soy, etc.), processed sugars (table sugar, agave, corn syrup, etc.), or seed oils (canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, etc.).
For a more comprehensive list, you can get our Paleo diet food list here.
So, Did I Give Up Rice?
White rice is a tricky subject – it’s the staple of most Asian cuisines and something that’s really tough for many Asians to part with. And there’s considerable debate in the Paleo world about white rice.
The main problem with most grains – including rice – is that they contain very little nutrition (despite what the whole-grain industry would like you to believe). So when we make these grains the biggest part of our diets, we miss out on a lot of nutrients.
Also, most grains contain a protein to discourage animals from eating them – in wheat, that protein is called gluten, and rice contains a similar protein.
Luckily, the protein in rice is less inflammatory, and white rice has most of the problematic protein polished off. (Despite much misinformation, that’s why white rice is healthier and has been the rice of choice in Asia for many centuries.)
Most healthy people can eat white rice just fine in small amounts (and Paul Jaminet at http://perfecthealthdiet.com has written quite a bit about this), but if you have blood sugar or weight issues, or if you have any sort of digestive issues, then even white rice will probably make it harder to get healthy.
For my part, I’ve gradually incorporated a small amount of white rice back into my Paleo diet, but I usually only eat it when I’m eating out.
What’s The Benefit Of Paleo?
Changing my eating habits turned out to be a momentous shift in my health and mindset that I am very grateful for today.
For me, it all started off as just another diet to lose weight – and yes, it definitely works for that!
But, I quickly realized that I was getting more than just weight-loss benefits (I’m like most Asians in that I honestly don’t have that much weight to lose even though I always want to lose weight).
Here are 3 other benefits I gained from eating a Paleo diet:
- My heartburn disappeared – I had been on heartburn medication for years, but it disappeared almost immediately after I started eating Paleo.
- I gained a ton more energy – I stopped getting that mid-morning and mid-afternoon slump at work and gained a mental clarity that I had rarely experienced before.
- My autoimmune conditions vanished – this took a bit longer (probably because my body needed a while to recover from all the crap I had been feeding it for a lifetime), but I stopped taking my medication almost a year ago and have not experienced any symptoms since! And that was for an autoimmune condition my doctors considered “incurable.”
Is Paleo Right For You?
I believe that Paleo can help everyone. Eating foods that are high in nutrients and avoiding foods that cause inflammation just makes sense for all humans, whether you’re Asian or not.
That doesn’t mean that a Paleo diet will suddenly fix 100% of your health issues or help you to lose 20 pounds in the next week, but it will give you an excellent starting point for healing your body, feeling better and more energetic, and also making it a lot easier to lose weight.
If you’re interested in trying out the Paleo diet, then I highly recommend you download Chihyu’s Beginner’s Guide and Meal Plan for Asians and then join our free 7-day Pure Paleo Challenge. After all, it’s just 7 days…what do you have to lose?
Visit us to find out more about what to eat on a Paleo diet.