30 October 2012

Life without Refined Grains

A few months ago, Victor came home from a business trip committed to a higher-protein, lower- carbohydrate diet.  Partly this was because he'd noticed a colleague of his had become significantly trimmer in the past year, and his colleague attributed his long-term weight loss to a higher-protein diet.

We did not want to omit vegetables of any kind, but we have found Michael Pollan's arguments against processed foods and over-consumption of grains persuasive (see In Defense of Food, for example) and so we decided to avoid refined grains, and try not to automatically "replace" with whole-grain versions, but really to change our eating habits (sashimi instead of brown rice maki). We used to eat all the bread in the breadbasket at restaurants--now we ask them not to bring the bread, even if the rolls are "whole-grain."  This means we deny ourselves some of our favorite foods, so once a week we allow an "exception." But practically speaking, we avoid bread, pasta, and rice.

It's a challenge, especially on-the-go, since sandwiches are out.  Nuts and fruit are a frequent fallback.  This morning I was at a big meeting, catered with "continental breakfast" that was mainly pastries and fruit.  So I ate the fruit. At mid-morning the food table was refreshed with cookies and--happily--granola bars. Oats--rarely if ever refined--are permitted. 

While we have been limiting refined grains, we have been increasing protein, in the form of animal products (eggs, milk, cheese) as well as meat, at the same time trying to maintain or increase the amount of vegetables that we consume. We eat saucy Asian dishes (stir-fries or curries) without accompaniment or over simple vegetables like steamed cabbage.

And we learn new things.  Today's lesson: buckwheat is not a grain.  Grain is only associated with cereals, which are grasses.  Grain is "botanically, a type of fruit" composed of endosperm, germ, and bran. Buckwheat, on the other hand, is the seed of a broadleaf plant related to rhubarb. It's called a pseudocereal because it's used as a cereal grain  but the name is as close as it gets to being grain. 

Why does it matter? It means we can eat buckwheat crepes!  And soba noodles! Yay!

What everyone wants to know is if we've lost weight.  Only a tiny bit.  But we seem to have at least halted the upward-sloping trajectory. And we've eliminated much of the "filler" from our diet--the useless stuff--which feels good.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Hi Deb,

A few quiet moments this evening finds me tapping in to your blog (I got here via Suzanne Estes).

Our household has been transformed somewhat in the past year by the ill-named "paleo" diet (which is high in protein and eliminates grains and sugars and ground nuts), which my wife has embraced whole-heartedly. For my part, I spent 30 days on the "Whole 30" diet with her, which is basically a radical version of the paleo diet. The results were interesting. She lost weight and felt fabulous (partly because her chronic joint pain all but disappeared), but I actually gained a few pounds and felt more and more depressed as the month went on. What a relief it was to finish those 30 days. Lauren's interpretation is that I failed to eat enough fat such that, I don't know, my body needed to eat my soul or something. Anyway, high-protein and low carb seems to be all the rage in some circles (as at the CrossFit gym I go to), and I may one day try the Whole30 month again (Lauren would like me to), but I can't imagine a life without bread or ketchup or peanut butter. You are very brave.

All the best from Vermont. If I remember correctly, we started the MFA program the same year (though I never finished), and if it helps jog your memory, I'm pretty sure it was a small gathering at your apartment on Capitol Hill to which I once brought a woman with what turned out to be a see-through shirt. And now, perhaps as then, I have over-stayed my welcome, this time because my 9-year-old needs help typing up a poem on the computer. Ta ta.