Low-Carb Paleo and Primal for Preppers

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I wouldn’t have much to eat in “What’s for Dinner”, so I’m going to write up my own personal paleo/primal low-carb approach to nutrition, especially as it applies to prepping.

The mountain men, hunters, and others rarely had sugar and flour and were healthier. I’m not as active as them, but I’m trying to eat like them.

Micro and Macro Nutrients– What Your Body Really Needs

The first thing to do is separate nutrients from calories. You need nutrients– vitamins, minerals, protein, and a few other things to keep things running. These, like oil and radiator fluid, are things you only need a little of, but they are vital. You also need calories in your fuel tank.

You need a daily supply of vitamins and minerals, the micro-nutrients. For those, when I’m not eating a wide variety of natural food, I have a multi-megavitamin, which has more than enough of my daily supply of all the vitamins and minerals. For example, I don’t have to worry about whether salt is iodized or not, as I get it from the supplement. You need to find vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed by the body, and try to get mega-vitamins. (The USDA 100% requirement is the amount to keep you from death, e.g. scurvy, not the amount to insure your health.) You want to have 100% of what you need each day. Note that some vitamins and minerals are toxic at high doses, so be careful. I’m still looking for the ultimate combination. (My ideal would be to be 110% of the proper amount per 50 pounds of body weight so would be good for men, women, and children.) Feedback and suggestions are welcome, as are suppliers who might want to create such.

The only macronutrient you need is protein. That is in meats, eggs, and some dairy, so instead of worrying about calories, store up the high protein foods. I didn’t mention beans and nuts; many have a lot of protein but also tend to have more carbs, so I don’t do much, but they are also a good choice. You don’t need much, usually only a few ounces, but you do need it. You can get a 5-pound jar of whey protein for about $50. (That’s two to three months for one average person.) I get one unflavored, especially without any added sugar, but there are other kinds of powdered protein. Technically you also need nucleic acids, but you tend to get enough from eating almost anything. Here again, I’m still looking for the perfect protein powder, whey? soy? or something else?

I might only add some “Omega” oil supplements, if you aren’t going to have much fat around. Some lipids are needed, even when not for energy, and your body doesn’t make all of them.

Every nutrient you need for three months fits into a bugout bag with room left over. A small cabinet can contain a 3-year supply.

This makes one thing simple in a TEOTWAKI situation. Just get one set of vitamins and one scoop of protein, and you don’t have to worry about nutrition. No worrying about meats vs. vegetables, but are you getting enough Vitamin A, C, or D, protein, iron, or iodine?

Now for Calories – “Good Calories, Bad Calories” – Fats vs. Carbohydrates (Carbs)

What follows is a bit oversimplified for a short article, but if you want to know more, read the authors, sites, videos, and links for comprehensive information.

When your body has glucose, it won’t burn your fat. Unless you have very little and burn all the glucose daily, you will store, not burn, fat. To burn both carbs and fat, you have to burn a lot of calories like an endurance athlete or our ancestors who had to use lots of muscle power instead of having air conditioned tractors, cars, and washing machines. However, there are endurance athletes who consume no carbs– nothing starchy or sugar-related, and they do fine, many do better.

The “What’s for Dinner” article said Americans consume 40 pounds of sugar yearly. However, most are seriously obese and borderline type 2 diabetic.

Fructose is sugar, but it’s not even a good supply of calories. Only the liver can process it, and you get fatty liver (cirrhosis writ small, not unlike consuming too much alcohol, which is another toxic carb). Obviously, “High Fructose Corn Syrup” is bad, but table sugar (sucrose) is half glucose and half fructose. See Dr. Lustig’s explanation.

Grains, and especially potatoes, are simple starches, which are merely stacked glucose molecules that turn into sugar in your stomach. Yes, you can get a sugar high from potatoes and an insulin spike and everything else, as if you drank a sugary soft drink. There are complex starches in beans and other foods like nuts, but it is easier to avoid all carbs, at least to start. Maltose (in beer) is two glucose molecules. Cellulose is indigestible plant fiber. I’ll leave galactose, lactose, and the other sugars for you to search.

Glucose is also a problem. Your liver can store it up as glycogen (animal starch), as can your muscles, but they can only store a little. Endurance athletes can store lots, but they will burn it all up and burn fat too. Most of us already have a full tank. What happens to the excess fuel? When your blood glucose levels go up, your pancreas (unless you are a type 1 diabetic) releases insulin. Insulin is the hormone that says to store the calories. If your liver and muscles are empty of glycogen, it can go there. Otherwise it changes to fat. Worse, if you also eat fat at the same time you have insulin going up, that fat too will be stored. You will get fat even if you consume no fat, just sugars and starches. Worse, having insulin telling your body to store instead of burn your blood glucose makes you feel weak and hungry, because you are starving inside. You aren’t burning what you’ve just eaten.

Your body (if you aren’t an endurance athlete) will refuse to burn fat until all the internal stores of glucose have been used up and it will resist. You will feel like you are starving, you will feel weak and tired, even if you are obese if your body isn’t set to burn fat. Your body is like a flex-fuel vehicle that slows down and conserves gas until that tank is empty, and only then will switch to diesel.

When you body has adapted to burn fat, it is called “ketosis”. It takes about two weeks of not eating carbs for your body to switch. Your body releases stored fat (or what you eat), your liver turns it into ketones, and your muscles (even your brain) burns them without any problem. You don’t feel hungry. Most people say they have lots of energy and think more clearly. They lose all the extra fat and keep it off as long as they avoid carbs. Most lose their addiction to sugar; they have no insulin spikes and no starvation. Eating fat releases Leptin– the “I’m full” hormone, so they stop eating when they’ve only had a little.

Most of the diet science was revived by Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories, and his follow-up Why We Get Fat, books available from Amazon, but there is a video with the basics.

I’m also not kidding when I call it “sugar addiction”. Your brain on sugar (other than the insulin shock) looks like your brain on heroin or nicotine, or alcohol. Even caffeine’s main effect is to cause your liver to release glucose into your bloodstream. Avoid booze, illegal drugs, tobacco, but eat 40 pounds of sugar each year?

Saying you must eat potatoes, pasta, bread, or sweets is wrong. You don’t have to. You can eat anything else. You can eat any green (non-starch) vegetable, salads with dressing (read the label to see if they add sugar, HFCS is in everything), eggs any style, meats, and fish. I banished carbs from my house but always have a dish of hard boiled eggs and something like a variety of near-zero-carb cheeses and lunch meats. Coffee and tea are available but no sugar (and no honey!) I have a wide variety but am rarely hungry, usually only after a long time or a lot of activity. Once I had some surgery where I couldn’t eat anything solid for a week. I wasn’t hungry and I lost 10 pounds. I tend to eat out of habit daily, and I do need the nutrients from real food– real meat, milk, eggs, vegetables, and they bring a little fat with them so I’m not pencil thin, but I’m healthy. And I’m doing almost no exercise.

My Challenge

If you want to try, give up sugars and starches for Lent. Especially break your sugar addiction, if nothing else. To switch your body to burn fat, you need to eat no more than 20 grams of carbs every day. (Read the labels, ignore “effective carbs”, and just do total carbs.) See the DietDoctor.com website or find other books– paleo or primal are two diets, Atkins was the original. You just need to read the labels and count carbs, not calories. Then eat as much as you want and maybe a little more when starting to avoid your body thinking it is starving; eat an extra egg.

Between now and Lent, eat up all the carbs in your house (or if you have stores, put them far in the back somewhere) so that by “Fat Tuesday”, green vegetables, fat, and protein are the only things you can eat without going out, but make sure some are right at hand so you can grab them when hungry. And eat a bit more salt; bullion is one way. Look up “carb-flu” for why. It is important not to have the bad calories available. Why do they have candy in the checkouts? This is like pretending having a copy of Playboy on the table is okay because you know your male friends would never give into temptation. This is the “near” in “avoid the near occasion of sin”. For Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, all leaven is removed from the home.

For Lent, eat all the eggs, meats (except when it is a day of abstinence), fish, cottage cheese, green (non-starchy) vegetables you want. I’d be careful with dairy, as milk has lactose. Just count the carbs. Don’t cheat or admit that it isn’t a fair test if you have and fail.

You can use sweeteners, but it is better to lose your sweet cravings completely; sweeteners can by themselves raise insulin levels as your body is anticipating sugar. Still, if it will make the transition easier, do so.

If it works, and you are in ketosis, burning your stored and eaten fat, no longer have a sweet tooth, and you are thinking clearly, have energy, lost 20 pounds or more, you might want to continue. You can lose as much as you want and carry your calories with you, since your body is burning fat. Then determine if you want to store more or get thinner.

Final Notes and Miscellany

As always, especially if you have special medical conditions, check with your family physician, but remember he might have been trained in the old, wrong school that only counting calories matters.

Strictly speaking, storing highly processed food, like sugar and flour, is easy, and if in TEOTWAWKI you are going to be burning 5000+ calories a day, it might be a better option. They are less expensive. (There are pallets of the usual bags at my local grocery store), and even fungi and bacteria won’t eat them.

I don’t understand why it matters if pure sucrose (there is nothing but that in the bag) comes from GMO or non-GMO plants or if it could be produced in a chemical factory.

The Healthy Home Economist is another excellent resource but more toward natural and alternative foods, cooking, and health.

The only sugars I eat is a rare raw honeycomb from local farmers. It is rumored the pollen helps with allergies. It’s not 40 pounds per year but more like four ounces at most, and there’s almost zero fructose (just some low-sugar berries. Lustig notes the natural fiber slows the release), and little starch, mostly complex starches in vegetables, but no potatoes or grains (except for an occasional experiment with paleo-food like einkorn).

I haven’t mentioned storage. I have a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer. I don’t have to mess with canning or worry about botulism, and it is less work. I can open up a bag and start crunching, or I can soak it to restore the original texture with 97% of the nutrition. Canning is high effort to store, reduces nutrition, and you have to be careful to cool afterward. What is the total cost in time, effort, and money to preserve X nutrients using canning versus a Freeze Dryer? Though, you can do canning on a wood stove.

I’ve stored what I’ve been eating all along– meats, eggs, vegetables, yogurt, cottage cheese. I buy extra and freeze-dry it; there’s one for me and one for the cabinet. I store vegetables in the growing season and meats, eggs, et cetera in winter. Oils are another matter, since they need a different approach, and the one in “Whats for Dinner?” works. I prefer butter. I might not even need to dip into my multivitamin and protein powder, if I’m just continuing to eat what I usually do but from my stores. There are lots of natural calories when you know how to get them, but you can’t control the nutrients. If I suddenly go from under 1000 to 5000 calories per day, then I won’t have to worry about eating carbs, and there’s lots of carbs around where I live since that is what the more commercial farms produce here.

Since except for an occasional garden, I don’t grow enough, I’m into CSA – community supported agriculture, Natural meats, Free range hens (sometimes running through the yard), raw milk from grass-fed cows , heirloom seed vegetables, et cetera since I don’t think we were created to digest things which come from factories. Different states have different laws, but I’m surprised – Montana is restrictive and Wyoming next door has food freedom (ignore the headline) from the link: Summer 2015: Governor Matt Mead signed the Wyoming Food Freedom Act into law on March 3. The new law gives farms, ranches, and home kitchens the right to sell any foods they produce, other than meat products, direct to the consumer without any government regulation or inspection. Sales can take place at farms, ranches, private homes, farmers markets, and through delivery. The Food Freedom Act legalizes the sale of any raw dairy product, including unaged cheese. The sale of raw cheese that has not been aged at least 60 days is prohibited in interstate commerce, but states do have the option of not having any aging requirement in their laws. At this time, Wyoming has the most favorable laws on the sale of raw dairy products in the U.S. You might want to remember that if you want to have a farm in the Redoubt. There are still regulations for more commercial sales, but I buy most products at Farmer’s markets.

Mostly, I want to eat real food. Although I suggested natural but processed supplements at the start, that is for an extreme situation. I was blessed with good health and an iron constitution, but I still feel much better since I’ve reduced the supply line and even minimal processing from the plant or animal to my table, which isn’t possible even with big-box “organic” food. Sugar and flour are bad just on that basis. In the garden of Eden, only one tree was off limits. However, the rest were firmly planted in the ground. Post flood, animals were to be respected, even if eaten and not treated like some factory input. Even raw honey, real original fruit, grains, or even potatoes are different (to draw a parallel, how many own or want dachshunds, yorkies, or poodles instead of something that could easily be mistaken for a wolf?). I’m skeptical of some of the miracle claims but am even more skeptical that processed foods aren’t seriously lacking in nutritional value. Low carbs, paleo, primal (though I don’t believe in evolution) is the closest to the ideal.

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