Everything Pumpkin !

 

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed the rather 'unseasonable' weather we've been having here in the Canadian Rockies. It isn't unusual for it to snow in early September, but,  it typically disappears pretty quickly....not this time. We got a HEAP of snow (30cm to be precise) and it stayed below zero every day last week. These frigid temps sent me lunging for my slow cooker and craving all of my favourite PUMPKIN recipes.

Circa Thanksgiving 2013...pie...best enjoyed with Scrabble

Circa Thanksgiving 2013...pie...best enjoyed with Scrabble

What is it about pumpkin? I swear, it's the veggie equivalent of bacon! One mention of it sends people into a tizzy. Perhaps it's the slightly sweet, carby nature of this starchy veggie, or maybe it's the spices we often pair with it that conjure up good memories of family and warm cozy days spent fireside. Regardless , I wanted to share a few amazing pumpkin recipes with you and talk about the benefits of pumpkin as a part of your healthy fertility or pregnancy Paleo diet.

 

 

Pumpkin's Paleo Pregnancy Friendly Nutritional Benefits at a Glance

  • Pumpkin is one of the lower carb starchy winter squashes. A 100g serving typically contains 8g of carbs (3g of which are fibre). It's also rich in soluble fibre which can help feed your happy belly bacteria and optimize your gut microbiome. This can be a good choice even when you're following a reduced carbohydrate diet or if you have gestational diabetes.
  • Rich in vitamins such as folate, niacin, vitamin B-6 , thiamin and pantothenic acid, vit-c, vit-a (more on this next week! and vit-e.
  • A good source of potassium. This can help re-fuel you after a workout and can also help to keep your electrolytes in balance. If you suffer from pregnancy related leg cramps this can really help. 
  • Excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, beta- carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the retina of the eyes. 
  • It tastes great is is often well tolerated in the first trimester when food aversion and nausea can dominate your life. In fact, the vitamin b-6 in pumpkin may actually HELP your morning sickness, especially if paired with ginger...think pumpkin pie! 

Slightly sloppy but seen here sporting a good dollop of coconut manna. 

Meg, The Modern Paleo Midwife's Pregnancy Pumpkin Gelatin Treat

This delightful single serving recipe utilizes the flavours of classic pumpkin pie while benefiting from healthy fats from coconut milk and the healing qualities of gelatin. There is also a sugar free option if you use stevia. 

Serves: 1

2/3 cup Coconut Milk (From a carton, light or full fat depending on how rich you'd like it)

1/3 cup Bpa free canned pumpkin or puree from homemade roast pumpkin

3/4 tbs Grassfed Gelatin

2 tsp Cinnamon 

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Nutmeg and Sea Salt (brings out the sweet and spice)

Stevia to taste (for sugar free) or 1-2 tbs coconut palm sugar, honey or maple syrup

Combine 1/3 cup of the coconut milk and the pumpkin and heat in microwave (for 1 min) or pot on the stove until just starting to bubble but not boil. In the mean time, bloom gelatin in remaining 1/3 cup of coconut milk, stirring well to combine.  Add spices (adjusting to taste), salt, vanilla and sweetener to gelatin mix. Once pumpkin/milk is hot, add the gelatin/spice mix and stir until gelatin mix is totally dissolved. 

Let set in fridge for 1-2 hrs until firm. Top with more cinnamon, melted coconut butter, whipped cream or my personal fav, vanilla coconut milk ice cream! 

Other Great Paleo Pumpkin Recipes (all Modern Midwife Approved!) 

Pale OMG's Round Up of her fab pumpkin recipes. 

Spunky Coconut's Pumpkin Chili 

Eat Drink Paleo's Pumpkin Garlic Cauliflower Mash and Meatballs

Classic Pumpkin Paleo Pancakes from Diane Sanfilippo's Practical Paleo

Elana's Pantry's Classic Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Paleo Mama's Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

 

 

 

Pregnancy "detoxing" and the 21 Day Sugar Detox

Goodbye Paleo Treats.........

Last week I aired my dirty laundry about my stevia addiction! Today is day 1 of my 21-day sugar detox and so far it's going pretty well. This past week I've been weening myself off the sweet nectar and learning to drink my coffee and tea without any stevia at all...this is a big deal for me and the first time it's happened since probably 1992. Now that I've sufficiently dated myself, I wanted to talk a bit about "detoxing" during pregnancy. 

I've been asked by a number of clients and readers about the safety of 'detox' diets during pregnancy. While pregnancy does spark a strong, primal desire to clean up our diets in order to give our growing babies the best we can give them, it is NOT a time to 'detox'.

What is a 'detox' anyhow?

A traditional detox refers to a diet that utilizes a variety of different nutritional guidelines and occasionally herbal supplements to aide the body's natural detoxing process and remove toxins from our tissues and organs. 

Raw juice detox programs are one of the more traditional and still popular methods of detoxing. These are not Midwife approved. 

Toxins are often stored in our fat cells and many of these diets encourage release of toxins by decreasing calorie levels thus encouraging fat loss by simple caloric deficit. Other programs use herbs and certain foods to stimulate the liver (our natural detoxifiying organ) ,  kidneys and colon (excretion organs).  When toxins are released in large loads many people experience side effects such as : headache, acne, bad breath and fatigue or flu-like symptoms.

These sorts of traditional detoxing diets are not safe for pregnancy. You need more calories not less during pregnancy not to mention that the "detoxing" of toxins from your body's tissues could potentially harm a developing fetus and placenta. Stay away....stay far far away.

HOWEVER...... there is one "detox" program I would recommend....The 21 Day Sugar Detox

21 Day Sugar Detox and Pregnancy

The 21-day sugar detox is a safe diet to follow during pregnancy, particularly in the 3rd trimester when your glucose tolerance is low and insulin resistance becomes high.

Say what??  I've written about it before but to to re-cap: when you are pregnant your body wants to store and accumulate extra fat stores by becoming more resistant to insulin, thus increasing your blood sugars and storing additional energy (aka sugar) as fat. It does this for two reasons:

1- To ensure that you have sufficient calories to breastfeed your baby in the event of a famine. Of course our bodies have not quite got the memo that we live in a society of the 24hr drive thru and let's face it,  Wholefoods opens at 7am, there is little chance we will miss the breakfast bar.

2- To fatten up your baby (for similar reasons). Unless you're care provider has told you that you are at risk for a small for gestational age baby, it is reasonable to assume that you don't need to over indulge in sugars to 'fatten' up your baby. 

As long as you are having a healthy, low risk pregnancy, the 21-day sugar detox can also be used at any point in pregnancy to re-set and help re-focus your diet around clean healthy eating.  

I like this program for a few reasons:

Hello duck leg and sauteed rainbow chard! This meal is 21-day sugar detox approved ! 

- This is not a traditional 'detox' but rather a healthy, whole food diet. There is no danger that you will offload toxins to your baby or enter into a caloric deficit as long as you eat sufficient portions and healthy meals. 

- The focus of the diet is obtaining maximum nutrient density from healthy fats, well sourced proteins and lots of vitamin rich colourful veggies.

- This is not a calorie restrictive program making it suitable for pregnant women. 

- The emphasis of this program is blood sugar regulation. This is exactly what we are trying to control in the third trimester and throughout pregnancy.

- The program comes with lots of great recipes and menu ideas for a busy mama-to-be. 

- There are options for different carb amounts included in the program. When pregnant, eat the approved carbs to satiety. Include at least 150g/day of carbs in your diet more if you are pregnant and active or breastfeeding. 

- The diet includes three levels to suit different diet styles or family members. Level 3 is strict paleo (think whole 30)  and Level 1 and 2 can include some gluten free grains (rice, quinoa) and full fat grass-fed dairy. Needless to say, it's pretty darn flexible and includes TONS of great recipes. 

Want to join me on my 21-day Sugar Detox Program? Sign up here! You can start anytime...you won't regret it! 

Always consult your care provider before starting any new diet.

 

The problem with Stevia and The start of my 21-Day Sugar Detox Journey

 I don't often share my personal stories but decided to share my story with stevia and share why I'm joining in on the next 21 Day Sugar Detox (starting sept 1st!).

This is what Stevia looks like in nature

This is what Stevia looks like in nature

I have a confession...I love SWEET tastes. I love anything sweet...but, I hate what sugar does to me. Sugar (even fruit) makes me jittery, strange and overall rather gross!  As a result I have become addicted to Stevia. It's true. My friends even make fun of me for it. When they come over, they instantly try to guess how many things on their plate have stevia in them. From tea to salad dressing and cupcakes, if I can, I add it.  It's a problem. It's both totally insane and completely hilarious.

I first discovered this sweet herb as a teenager when I went into a tiny funny smelling health food store WAAYYY back in 1990 when my naturopath put me on a gluten free vegan diet (that's another story!). Let me tell you, back then, there were no such products like Truvia, Sweetleaf or other tasty extracts, I got into the green leaf stuff. I grew to love the slightly metallic, overly sweet flavour and being a weight obsessed athlete I loved that it was calorie free. I grew up with Nutrasweet and figured this was a much healthier option.

Now, over 20 years later, I realize I have a mega problem with stevia! It's changed the way I experience my food. I overly sweeten my tea and espresso, make my gelatin coconut milk treats sickly sweet and have even been spotted dropping the stuff right into my mouth. I know....gross but true.

This is how we turn a plant into a problem...or at least it's a problem for this Paleo Midwife ! 

This is how we turn a plant into a problem...or at least it's a problem for this Paleo Midwife ! 

Although Stevia is one of the better sweeteners out there, over consumption of any highly refined product is never recommended and can even have negative effects on your health. Mark Sisson did a great post outlining the benefits and risks of stevia that is worth checking out.

Some studies show that stevia consumption can cause hypoglycaemia. This may be a good thing if you are insulin resistant or diabetic, but for a normal active gal with a high stress job, this hypoglycaemia may end up taxing the precious adrenals and effect the delicate hormone balance. These are important things to have if you have a stressful job like me or are trying to maximize your fertility.

I came across this post from Kate Skinner who does a beautiful job explaining it. 

" Stevia is “sweet” on the palate, so the body assumes it is receiving sugar and primes itself to do so. Glucose is cleared from the bloodstream and blood sugars drop, but no real sugar/glucose is provided to the body to compensate. When this happens, adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize sugar from other sources (liver and muscle glycogen, or protein, or body tissue) to bring blood glucose back up. 

The whole process is stressful to the body. We don’t want to be relying on raising blood sugar at the expense of skin health, muscle mass and immune function. Since we want to be avoiding increasing stress hormones (for many reasons, but they are inflammatory, strongly linked to weight gain, low thyroid function, insulin resistance and other health problems), avoiding hypoglycemia is really important for increasing and maintaining overall health.  " 

SOOO, I need to stop and reset. I'm not saying I'm going to give up using stevia as a sweetener all together but I need to cut way back! How on earth am I going to break this long standing habit? The 21 Day Sugar Detox of course! 

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin from the 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook. So delicious and got me rave reviews from my guests. 

If you're not familiar with the 21 Day Sugar Detox let me tell you, you should be! It's a wonderful program put together by the author of Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo. I have recommend this program to a number of my clients who want to help bust through sugar cravings in the third trimester or do a general reset after their baby comes. It's a nutritionally dense program that doesn't put women in a caloric deficit. This is critical if you are aiming to maximize your fertility, are pregnant or are breastfeeding. That being said some folks loose weight on this program. This is likely due to having a more optimal blood sugar balance and eliminating excess sugars from their diet.

So, what's included in this program? LOTS! This includes: a quick-start guide you can download right after you buy it, downloadable meal plans, tons of great recipes (from some super cool guest bloggers as well as Diane), shopping lists, workout and lifestyle guides, audio programs and guides to modifications for athletes and those with autoimmune issues. You have the option of buying the print book and cookbook (at a great price) too. There will even soon be an online community to connect to others sharing this road to wellness. 

No Joke Chocolate Cake from ZenBelly with my signature Paleo "Buttercream". The coconut chocolate whipped filling is AMAZEBALLS

No Joke Chocolate Cake from ZenBelly with my signature Paleo "Buttercream". The coconut chocolate whipped filling is AMAZEBALLS

As a pre-amble to my journey away from sweet tastes, I made one of the recipes in the 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook  for a friends going away party! (see above) It was amazeballs. Can you say pork wrapped in more pork? My guests loved it. Oh, I also made a GIANT chocolate cake! I used this recipe from ZenBelly. She's right, this chocolate cake is NO JOKE! Perhaps it would make a great treat at the end of your detox or like me, something to help you kick it off :) 

Stay tuned next week to learn more about why the 21 Day Sugar Detox is great for Pregnancy, in particular the third trimester! Send me your questions or join me on this journey. The next 21 Day Sugar Detox starts Sept 1st! 


Essential Fatty Acids: What's the Deal?

It's summer in the Canadian Rockies and the alpine wildflowers are in peak bloom. It's times like these I feel blessed to enjoy where I live and am thankful for the clean air, open spaces and wild country that I call home!

This was a cloudy day last week and a beautiful run through the wild arnica (good for tissue healing) around Buller Pass. This was 30mins from my house. That makes me happy! 

All these beautiful flowers, plus a post by Paleo For Women's Stefani Ruper inspired me to want to write own post about Evening Primrose Oil. I got going on that and then whamo! Up popped a post by Mark Sission that inspired me to write a more general post about Fatty Acid Supplementation.

This wee story may be the starting point for a longer novella about fatty acids in pregnancy but for now, here's my two cents on essential fatty acids. Before we jump right into why I encourage DHA supplementation during pregnancy, let's look at why, in the Paleo community, we talk about balancing our omega-3 and 6 ratios.

Why should I care about Omega3's vs Omega 6's? 

Good question! Why the heck should you care? I'm not a big fan of  'micromanaging' what you eat, but, I think it can be beneficial to take a big picture approach and look at your diet every once in a while. This is especially important if you are suffering from a chronic condition, are trying to optimize fertility or are expecting a little cavebaby! 

To explain it briefly and simply, omega-6 fatty acids (mostly Arachidonic acid ) promote systemic inflammation in the body by stimulating inflammatory prostaglandin's. Omega-3 fatty acids (mostly EPA/DHA)  aren't in themselves anti-inflammatory but rather stimulate a concurrent cascade of chemical activities that basically slows the entire inflammatory cycle down by competing with binding sites and decreasing tissue concentration of inflammatory prostaglandin's. 

Therefore, the amount of omega-3's you need in your diet should correspond to the amount of omega-6's in your diet. Too much omega-6 and you run the risk of developing diseases that are related to inflammation. These include cardiovascular disease, Chrohn's disease, hormone dis-regulation and insulin resistance. Being in a constant state of inflammation can also make conceiving more difficult. This is why we are all so fascinated and obsessed with omega 3:6 ratios. 

Back up here....Prosta-'what'-dins? 

Prostaglandins are autocrine or paracrine regulators rather than hormones. They are produced an act locally within cells and tissues. Prostaglandins have a wide variety of important functions in our body including: being responsible for the cascade of hormones to start labour, smooth muscle regulation, cell growth, hormone regulation, platelet aggregation (formation of blood clots) and localized inflammatory responses. 

This is a great visual that helps point out how much omega:6 is in our diet

 What is the optimal Omega 3:6 Ratio?

Well, good question. I don't think anyone really knows. A standard american diet (SAD)  typically includes ratios of 1:10 or upwards of 1:25. That's totally nuts! Many Paleo authors have suggested a ratio of 1:1 -1:3 is a more reasonable ratio for optimal health. These ratios more closely resemble the ratio's that our traditional ancestral diet may have contained.

Should I Supplement?

Well, good question. If you eat a squeaky clean paleo, ancestral or primal diet, with no processed food, no inflammatory seed oils (think canola based margarine) it's easy to think you're doing a smashing job! That being said, even I occasionally cave and eat a bag of organic chips made with canola, and there are tons of Omega-6 fatty acids found in many paleo/primal friendly foods too. These include delicious delights such as avocados, nuts, nut flours (aka paleo treats), poultry and pork products (yup...bacon).  

Most of us aren't perfect in balancing these ratios and we tend to be exposed to many more omega-6 fatty acids in our diets than may be optimal. It's good to look at your intake of these foods and be honest about how much poultry, nuts and avocados you really consume.

To aid in ratio optimization, try to add in more grass-fed beef, game or organ meats, watch your consumption of nuts and seeds (walnuts and macadamias are a good choice), and try to include more cold water fish like herring, mackerel and sardines. You can also get DHA from flax, hemp and chia but it must be converted in the body from ALA to EPA/DHA. Unfortunately, this process isn't very efficient. According to Chris Kresser, less than 5% of ALA getting converted to EPA with less than 0.5% being converted to DHA. Best to stick with the fish and grassfed meats.

If you are trying to treat a specific health condition, trying to conceive or are pregnant or breastfeeding, supplementation may be a good choice and is supported by both mainstream medical doctors and most natural health practitioners alike.

DHA/EPA Supplementation

There are numerous studies touting the benefits of supplementation with DHA, most notably from fish oil. Supplementation of DHA from fish oil has been shown to be beneficial for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding.  

DHA supplements may help:

DHA helps babies brain, eye and overall neurological health

DHA helps babies brain, eye and overall neurological health

  • Enhance male fertility by aiding in sperm quality and motility
  • prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnancy
  • prevent mood changes and postpartum depression
  • Support fetal neurological development (brain/eyes)
  • Reduce of the risk of allergies in infants
  • Supplementation during breastfeeding dramatically increases DHA content of breastmilk...essentially making it "super-milk" 

DHA is one of the few fatty acids that crosses the placenta. Fatty acids are required by the developing fetus as a source of energy, to maintain the fluidity, permeability and conformation of membranes and as precursors of critical bioactive compounds such as prostacyclins, prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes. DHA synthesis is limited in the fetus and supplementation or high dietary intake of DHA has been shown to increase overall fetal DHA levels and effect m-RNA expression. Translation: these are all good things! 

DHA absorption by the fetus is shown by studies to really get ramped up in the final 10 weeks of pregnancy. So, if you are nauseated or just can't tolerate fish oil caps in the first half of pregnancy, no biggie. You can make up for it later when you are feeling better. 

What supplements should I buy?

This is a wee little Krill...he's a good choice if you're going to supplement with DHA. 

This is a wee little Krill...he's a good choice if you're going to supplement with DHA. 

Good question! I coach clients to look for DHA from krill or other small marine animals. Krill oil has been show to be more easily absorbed and increase blood DHA levels faster and more efficiently than traditional fish oil capsules. Plus, krill are small little animals and the lower you eat on the food chain, the less risk you have for being exposed to contaminants and toxins. Make sure your supplement has at least 200-300mg of DHA per cap and take between 1g-2g daily.  Chris Kresser wrote a long post all about how to choose a fish oil that is worth a read. 

For the Fish/seafood allergic there are options! 

For the Fish/seafood allergic there are options! 

Don't do fish?  If you're like me and are allergic to fish/seafood/shellfish there is one other option for getting your DHA. Marine algae. Studies have shown that taking a supplement of marine algae based DHA can be just as effective as fish oil. It's more expensive but if you have no other options, it can be a good solution. 

 

 

 

 

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose...not just a pretty flower

Evening Primrose...not just a pretty flower

What is Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)? 

Evening primrose oil is a pressed flower oil that contains omega-6 fatty acids, much like safflower or canola oil. I know what you're thinking,

"HOLD THE PHONE, aren't additional omega-6 fatty acids a bad?" Well, , yes, I'd agree, but, EPO is an exception. 

EPO is unique in that it is mostly comprised of (75%) Gamma-Linoeic Acid or GLA. GLA is one of the  few "anti-inflammatory" omega-6's fatty acids. It does this by it mitigating the inflammatory prostaglandin response caused by Arachidonic Acid (aka canola, safflower, sunflower oil) via similar pathways as DHA and EPA.

Evening Primrose Oil's Role in Women's health, Fertility and Pregnancy

There is very little research on the benefits of EPO but here is what we do know...or think we know :)

Manage PMS

  • Inflammatory prostaglandin excess can be responsible for a myriad of PMS symptoms including cramps, breast tenderness, joint pain and bloating. Taking a supplement of EPO may help to reduce these effects and make PMS a bit more manageable. Many PMS sufferers are found to have unusually low levels of GLA in their systems, which is why supplements might help so much. EPO can also help promote the absorption of iodine, a mineral that can be present in abnormally low levels in women with PMS and hypothyroid conditions. 

 Balance your Mood

  • What woman doesn't want help with the delicate balance of mood regulation during their menstrual cycle or pregnancy?  Studies have shown that supplementing with EPO can help reduce some of the mood changes associated with PMS, pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Many studies focused on the use of DHA, not GLA for pregnancy mood related changes so for clients who have struggled with mood in the past, I usually recommend a high dose fish oil or placental encapsulation (that's another post!) for this particular complaint.

Aid in Fertility

  • There are some claims that claim that taking evening primrose oil can help a woman conceive by making her cervical mucus more stretchable and slippery, enabling the sperm to move more quickly through the uterus and into the fallopian tube. Can't hurt!  

Supplementing with EPO during the third trimester of Pregnancy

  • Many midwives recommend supplementation of EPO during the third trimester of pregnancy to help soften and ripen the cervix in preparation for labour. I used to recommend this too until I did some further research. Honestly, it doesn't really seem to work. There have been many midwifery led studies in North America and Europe that show no change in cervical ripeness with EPO supplementation. Bummer. Does it hurt? Nope. Will it help? Probably not, but again, it doesn't hurt! 

 

 

Blueberry Gummies and why Gelatin is Great!

New CaveGirl Plus One NEWSLETTER! 

Extra Extra have you heard the news? CaveGirl Plus One now has a newsletter! Eacy bi-weekly newsletter will include a special recipe and some insider tips to help you maximize fertlity and grow a happy healthy little cavebaby. Here's a little smattering of what you'll find in these bi-weekly emails. To sign up, simply add your name to the list on the right hand side of the screen. 

The Magical Powers of Gelatin

True story....I use gelatin a lot! Here are a few quick reasons why you should incorporate gelatin into your diet. 

  • Helps with gut healing and digestion
  • Helps to combat constipation
  • Supports healthy hair and nail growth
  • Helps skin become more 'elastic' (good for fending off pregnancy stretch marks)
  • Source of protein and healthy amino acids that are only found in joints of animals. This includes Glycine, which is a potenent anti-inflammatory. 
  •  Helps balance hormones. This can be helpful for women who sufferfrom PCOS or estrogen dominance. 

Blueberry Ginger Gummies

These healthy low sugar gummies are a source of electrolytes thanks to the sea salt. They are a great quick snack, pick-me-up during a trainning session or or as an easy to digest labour fuel. The ginger can also make them great for nausea in the first trimester of pregnancy. 

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 2 tbs balsamic vinager (or more water)

  • 2 tbs grassfed gelatin (find it here

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 1 tsp powdered ginger

  • Stevia as desired to taste 

Place the blueberries, stevia and balsamic in a small saucepan and cook for 5-10 mins or until cooked and have released there sweet juices. Transfer to blender or use an immersion blender (careful if your mixture is hot!) and puree until well blended. Return to pot.

Mix gelatin into water and allow to "bloom" for 5 mins. 
 

Re-heat blueberry mix adding in sea salt, ginger and gelatin mix. Don't let boil but get hot enough to mix in gelatin. Stir well until combined. Allow to sit for 30-ish mins and then transfer into a silicon mini muffin pan or molds of some sort. Chill for 3-4hrs and enjoy! 

Why Ice Cream is your friend when you are Paleo or Primal and Pregnant

My version of Paleo 'Mint Chip' Ice Cream

I have a confession to make...I am a totally obsessed ice cream lunitic. I just can't get enough of the stuff. There is something magical about ice creams sweet melty goodness, especially on a hot summer evening, that I just can't get enough of. I routinely chat about the importance of reducing sugars in the second and third trimester with my midwifery clients. You may be shocked to learn that a part of that discussion always includes an endorsement of ice cream as a perfect pregnancy treat. Why? Read on :) 

 

Why ice cream is an ideal Paleo friendly pregnancy treat

  • Grassfed dairy or goat milk ice cream (Primal) is loaded with calcium, beneficial saturated fats (needed to absorb the calcium) and Conjugated Linoic Acid (CLA). These combined with a nice ratio of protein and carbohydrates, helps to negate the insulin spikes caused by added sugars. Dairy based ice cream could be included on a Primal diet or on a selective dairy based version of a Paleo diet. 
  • Coconut based dairy free ice cream (Paleo) also has many benefits including being rich in saturated fats and lauric acid. Lauric acid plays a fundamental role in building your body’s immune system. Once in your system, lauric acid transforms into an antibacterial and antiviral substance called "monolaurin" which destroys viruses and diseases. Lauric acid also occurs naturally in human breast milk and plays a vital role in nourishing and protecting babies from infections. Cocount is also rich in Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) which promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels. Coconut based ice cream is also much lower in sugar than many other treats.
  • Ice cream satisfies your sweet tooth. A healthy diet is all about not feeling restricted. Endulge in sensible moderation and enjoy food...it's magic. 

Making Paleo ice cream at home

I bought a simple and inexpensive cuisinart ice cream maker a few years ago. Let me tell you,  in the summer time it gets used frequently! Making your own ice cream is a bit delicate but once you get everything right, it gets much easier. Tips for perfect ice cream:

My Paleo version of Cherry Garcia in the works. Thank you Ice Cream Maker! Want your own...see the link at the bottom of this post! 

My Paleo version of Cherry Garcia in the works. Thank you Ice Cream Maker! Want your own...see the link at the bottom of this post! 

  • Use a thickener: I use grassfed gelatin but agar-agar or tapioca starch can work too.
  • Make sure all your ingredients are COLD. I keep my ice cream maker base in the freezer for 24hrs + before using it. I also pre-freeze my ice cream storage dish and refrigerate my ice cream batter before churning it in the mixer. 4-24hrs is ideal.
  • Store your precious creamy treat in a shallow glass dish. This will help it defrost evenly and ensure you get pretty scoops.
  • Don't eliminate fat by using "lite" coconut milk or "low fat" milk. The fat is essential for the texture and taste. Plus, it's where most of the benefits are found.
  • Don't eliminate all the sugar (unless on 21day Sugar Detox), some sugar is required for good texture. You can sub half the sweeter with stevia if you like. 
  • Watch your portions. Standard portions are 1/2 cup - 2/3 cups. 

I follow a dairy free Paleo diet and have been messing around with various ice cream recipes for years. Recently, I picked up a copy of Kelly Brozyna new book Dairy Free Ice Cream and it's changed my life! Her suggestions for thickeners using gelatin really helped the texture of the ice cream. It's something I'd experimented with before but couldn't quite get the ratios right. So far I've tried her recpies for chocolate, brownie batter, vanilla and used her ideas as a starting point for some of my own versions of classic treats including a mint chocolate chip and paleo cherry garcia (recipe below). Honestly, you have to buy a copy of this amazing book! 

Want Ice Cream but don't want to make it? 

Ok, so perhaps the process of ice cream making isn't your 'cup of tea'. Here are a few Paleo/Primal friendly tips to keep in mind when purchasing commercial based ice cream.

  • Watch out for stablizers, additives and thickeners. Carrageenan is a common thickener that can cause digestive distress in some folks and is a bit controversial. See Chris Kressers post, here for more info.
  • Check and see what the ice cream is sweetened with. Stay away from Agave nectar when possible. It is a sub-optimal sweetner for a number of reasons and I don't endorse it's use on a paleo or primal diet. In my opinion, agave is pure evil. 
  • If buying dairy ice cream, try to find grassfed dairy or goat milk dairy. Many local producers will make their own ice creams. In Canada Woolwich dairy goat ice creams are widely avaliable but grassfed dairy is harder to come by than it is in the United States. Mapletons Organic is pretty decent stuff although not grassfed.
  • If buying non-dairy ice cream, stay away from Soy and read labels. The cleanest commercially available coconut based products I've found include: Screamin Brothers which is locally made here in Alberta and is honey as its sweetner. The widely avaliable So Delicious is transitioning all of its products from agave based sweeteners to organic cane sugar (yahoo) and it's coconut ice creams are pretty great. 

Meg's Verion of Paleo "Cherry Garcia"

I love my ice cream on a gluten free cone. These cones have pretty paleo friently ingredients and can be a nice little paleo cheat #notperfectpaleo.

When I was a kid, cherry ice cream used to be my favourite. I would call it "beetle" ice cream because the cherries looked like beetles to my little 5 year old mind. I decided to try to recreate my childhood favourite after being inspired by Spunky Coconut's Kelly Brozyna. 

Makes 6-8 servings

2 cups Sweet Fresh Cherries (frozen would work too) pitted

1 container Full Fat Coconut milk (BPA free and organic if possible)

1 cup unsweetened almond, hemp or coconut milk (carton)

1/3 cup coconut palm sugar or 1/2 cup soft dates made into puree

1 tbs pure vanilla exract

1 tbs natural almond extract 

1 tbs grassfed gelatin disolved into 1/4 cup boiling water

1/2 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chunks (or dark chocolate bar chopped) 

Puree 1 cup of cherries in blender and add coconut milk, date paste/coconut sugar, vanilla exract, almond extract and blend until well combined. Add hemp, almond or carton based coconut milk and blend another 1-2 mins. Add in disolved gelatin/water mixture and blend for an additional 2 mins. Transfer into a glass dish and set into fridge to cool 4-6hrs. 

After your mixture has cooled it will resemble a pudding. Stir to break up any clumps and transfer into your ice cream maker. Process according to manufacturers directions (mine takes about 20 mins to set into a nice soft serve). Add remaining 1 cup of fresh cherries (cut into halves or quarters) and chocolate chunks. Process until these add-in's are well combined. Transfer into a pre-chilled shallow glass dish and let set in freezer for 1-2hrs or until desired consistency. To re-use your ice cream just set on counter top for 30 mins until soft. ENJOY! 

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How to Balance Your Hormones- Paleo Styles

My friend Erin Urton from Tuja Wellness, finding her balance in Zion a few years ago. 

Balance.  We all desire it and yet so many of us struggle to find it! It can be complicated, like a good relationship, as well as mystical, like the snuffleupagus. When it comes to optimal female health, fertility and wellbeing finding a healthy hormone balance is critical.

How do you know your hormones may be out of balance? Well if you suffer from sleep disturbance, fatigue, unexplained weight gain or loss, acne, irregular menstruation, infertility, PMS or have been told you have PCOS, then you suffer from a hormone imbalance. 

Meg the Paleo Midwife's suggestions for helping to improve your hormone balance

1. Limit Caffeine: Remember my Bulletproof post last week? Caffeine can be great for a healthy individual, however, if your body is under stress it can wreak havoc on your delicate adrenal system. The adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol in addition to sending messages to your pituitary gland. It's your pituitary gland where the hormones LH (leutinizing) and FSH (folliclie stimulating hormone) are made. These two hormones are critical for egg maturation and ovulation, which are key parts of getting pregnant. If adrenals are depleated, hormonal imbalance can occur. Choose herbal tea or decaf or half-caf coffee instead.

You cand find these awesome chips here! They do online ordering too. How did I figure out how to include chips in a post about hormones? Can you see the irony? Ha ha

2. Avoid high Omega-6 Polyunsaturated fats: These are mostly found in vegtable oils like canola, safflower, sunflower or soybean oil. Avoiding these fats is a key part of the Paleo diet as they cause inflammation and easily oxidize in the body. Inflammation contribues to endocrine/hormone balance and can cause disruptions in the bodies natural cycles. The easiest way to avoid them is to read labels and ask what kind of oil is used in restaurants!  They linger in chips (even sweet potato chips) and packaged foods. Choose fats from animals like butter, ghee or lard in addition to non-animal fats found in olive and coconut oils. Need to satisfy your chip craving? These will do it and keep you healthy! 

3. SLEEP: Sleep really does fix everything. If your body isn't getting the rest it needs then it isn't getting a chance to repair and produce its own natural hormones. Not getting sleep affects your hormones viat two main pathways. The first is via the pituitary axis. Not only does the pituitary glad produce LH and FSH (see above) it also produces GH or growth hormone. This hormone is responsible for repair and rejuvination in the body. The second main way sleep contributes to hormone balance is with the simulation of your parasympathetic nervous system. This is the system that tells your body to chill out! Most endocrine (aka hormone) organs in your body need good parasympathetic 'tone'. There are several well documented examples of sleep deprivation effecting pancreatic insulin secreation and the release of leptin from fat cells. Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone. Sleep deprivation also effects your thyroid gland and it's overall function. All key things to help you look and feel your best.  If you have trouble sleeping developing a few rituals around bedtime can help. Here's a link to a great article about sleep hygiene. 

4. Exercise intellegently:  Running marathons and doing 5 hard WODs a week does not improve hormone function! Exercise just hard enough to challenge your body but not so hard that it can't recover. When you work too hard you stimulate an overwhelming release of cortisol, which tells your pituitary that you're stressed! Most bodies can do this for a little while but in the long term your body gets the signal that maybe this isn't a great time to be fertile and bring new little cavebabies into the world!

Gentle cardiovascular activity done early in the day and feel enjoyable are key (late day workouts can harm sleep) . Many people enjoy hiking, walking, swimming or biking. A bonus, exercise done outside also helps improve your mood, vitamin D levels and overall sense of wellbeing!  Lifting heavy weights 2-3 times a week can also help trigger a cascade of benifical hormone responses that can be ideal for hormone balance. 

This list changes anually so be sure to keep up to date. 

5. End your relationship with toxins: Choose your organic produce wisely. Using a guide like the dirty dozen and clean 15 can help you make budget friendly choices. Try to buy local, organic or pasture raised meats and eggs when possible.

It's not just what we eat that can effect our hormones. It's also what's in our homes, cars and offices. Limit exposure to things like plastics (BPA), non-stick/teflon cookwear and read labels on your skin care products and cleaning supplies. You'd be surprised where toxins can linger. Choose natural skin care products that don't contain hormone disruptors like parabens. Consider using homemade cleaners like baking soda, vinager and soap. You'd be surprised how effective these can be! .