Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Review -- It Starts With Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig

Whether you want to do a Whole30 or not, I recommend reading It Starts Wit Food. While the Whole30 program is based on a Paleo diet (aka Caveman Diet), the Hartwigs don't focus on what our primitive ancestors may or may not have eaten in the past. Instead, as they state on page 25 of their book: "We are far more concerned with health than we are with history."  They don't want to worry about whether a caveman would have eaten something or not, they want to focus on the foods that make us healthy now.

They start with the premise that every bit of food you eat is either making you more healthy, or less healthy, there is no neutral food. And they define what they mean by food that makes you healthy as food that meets four criteria: 

The food we eat should:
  1. promote a healthy psychological response,
  2. promote a healthy hormonal response,
  3. support a healthy gut
  4. support immune function and minimize inflammation.
They talk about how pleasant tastes used to tell us that food was something nutritious for us while unpleasant tastes prevented us from eating things that could be poisonous, and how manufacturers take advantage of our natural tendency to want the pleasant tastes to make food that is extremely appealing, to the point that we truly can't help but crave their products. It's not necessarily the extremely appealing tastes that are the problem, though. The problem is that along with those tastes, most manufactured food doesn't ever make us satiated, because it doesn't contain the protein, fat, and other nutrients that signal our brains that we're getting full, so we just keep eating. 

They go into a lot of detail about hormones and inflammation and how food affects both of those, but they balance out all of what they refer to as the "science-y stuff" with plenty of examples that help explain what they're talking about. And they spend chapters on all of the foods they ask you to give up during your Whole30, explaining how they affect you and why they think you'll be better off without them in your diet. Then they spend chapters going over the more healthy foods you should be eating and why they're the best choices for you nutritionally. 

They also spend a lot of time going over their meal template in detail. They don't give you specific amounts of any food that you need to eat, basing their amounts on things like the size of the palm of your hand (for your protein serving) or the size of your thumb (for a healthy fat), and they stress that it will be a learning process -- you'll have to figure out how much you need to eat at each meal to stay satisfied until your next meal, but as long as you follow the general guidelines they give, you'll be fine. They also stress things like sitting at a table to eat your meal, and conversing with anyone you're dining with, as opposed to just sitting there playing with your phone or watching tv. While I don't usually have anyone to eat with, I know that I have been much more mindful of what I'm eating if I sit at the table and just eat, instead of multitasking.

In addition, they talk about changes to Whole30 for special populations, including vegetarians and people who have autoimmune diseases or other possible food sensitivities to foods that are not normally cut out during a Whole30. They have a detailed re-introduction plan to add back in foods that you've spent 30 days without, so that you can see whether they affect you in ways that you didn't realize they did, and then decide whether you want to include them in your diet regularly based on that. They also include some basic recipes and ideas for meal planning.

I realize this got a little long, sorry about that. I guess if I were going to sum it all up, I'd say that if you have an interest in health and nutrition, you should read this book. You could do a Whole30 without reading the book, just based on the information on their website, and be fine, but I think the book went into a lot of detail about why the rules are what they are. While there is some of the why on the website, there's a lot more detail in the book. 

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