I always thought that my paleo baking attempts left me with a tummy ache because they contained eggs, or butter, or nut flour. Turns out it wasn’t. My body simply doesn’t handle the concentration of ingredients found in baked goods, even if they are totally compliant with the autoimmune protocol. I have learned this the hard way…a few times. I always try to blame it on something else…. but I have finally had to admit the truth: BAKED GOODS HURT MY TUMMY A LOT (especially if I eat more than one).
As the REAL FOOD movement has grown (by real food I mean: paleo, primal, ancestral and Weston A. Price based diets) so has the availability of pre-made treats and recipes for baked goods. You can buy frozen “Paleo” meals and grain free granola bars at even the most mainstream supermarkets. While I think it is great that eating real food with real ingredients is becoming easier and more accessible, it is a double edged sword. The whole point of eating real food is exactly that: eating real food, meaning food in it’s most natural form. However, even a grain free granola bar with totally recognizable ingredients is processed… and a few more steps from it’s natural form than it really needs to be. I am not saying that all grain-free granola bars are bad and that you shouldn’t eat one if you are really hungry, but they should not take the place of buying real fruits and vegetables and making a really real meal.
When I first started following a whole foods diet to control my Crohn’s disease symptoms I lived in rural Brazil with no grain free flour options or pre-made paleo anything. I couldn’t even buy maple syrup or canned coconut milk. I made coconut milk from coconuts and was dying to get my hands on some arrowroot flour, almond meal or at least some grass-fed gelatin! It turns out that my lack of resources actually was probably helpful. I was on a “whole 24/7/365” instead of a “whole 30” (read more about the whole 30 here) and my body seemed to like it.
The autoimmune protocol is now becoming increasingly popular… just like these other whole foods movements. When I began following the autoimmune protocol, not even 2 years ago, you could count the websites with AIP information on one hand and the AIP baked goods recipes on your nose. Now you need at least the hands and feet of two people to count them (maybe a whole village)! I am happy that more and more people are finding the autoimmune protocol and solving their chronic health problems. I am also shocked, awed and thrilled that there are wizards out there who can make cookies and cake with the ingredients available on the autoimmune protocol! Making cake without: grains, nuts, dairy, sugar, eggs, or seeds (yes this includes chia and flax seed egg replacers) is not just baking or chemistry. It is magic. The amazing people who think up these recipes deserve a prize! Their recipes make an extremely difficult diet a lot more approachable and give us the opportunity to have celebratory treats without the consequences of gluten and processed sugar (or in my case even eggs and nuts). Unfortunately as the autoimmune protocol becomes more mainstream and these recipes become more common, I fear that we are going to see more AIP “failures.” We have to be really careful when replacing our breakfast toast with “AIP toast” and not changing our real habits. Treats are treats and we have to treat them as such!
So here you have it:
WHY NOT TO EAT “WHOLE FOODS” TREATS
1) Even the paleo grain substitutes are processed
Take coconut flour for example, a great, grain free flour substitute full of fiber! Making coconut flour isn’t as simple as grinding up a coconut. You have to grind up the coconut and blend it with hot water before squeezing out all of the fats, oils and juices. This process is repeated until the coconut flour is almost fat-free. The remaining pulp is then toasted and ground even further until it is fine and powdery, like wheat flour. There is definitely a lot of processing in the process of turning any whole food into flour, and as with any industrial processing, the food is altered and often damaged as a result.
2) Whole foods stop being whole when we take them apart
It is one thing to cook a sweet potato, mash it up, add some ghee and eat it. It is entirely another thing to change it’s form completely and remove some of it’s elements. A coconut without it’s fats is no longer a whole food. As I mentioned in my article about vitamins and nutrients: whole foods often come conveniently packaged with all of the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids etc. that we need to properly digest them and optimally absorb their nutrients. We are not smarter than nature…odds are that if there are more than a few steps between the original food and what you put in your mouth, it has lost some of it’s original nutritional value and/or digestibility.
3) Sugar is sugar even when it isn’t sugar
Humans didn’t use to eat a lot of sugar. The average sugar consumption during most of human history was less than 20 grams and usually straight from a bush or tree. Natural sugars (honey, maple syrup, dates) are better on a nutritional level because they still have all of their original nutrients, but this doesn’t stop them to from being sugar. On the autoimmune protocol the recommended daily sugar intake is about 10- 20 grams.To give you an idea about the actual quantity of sugar we are talking about 100g dates = 75 grams of sugar, a half a large plantain = 30 grams of sugar, a cup of carrots = 10 grams of sugar, a cup of yam = 27.9 grams of sugar, 1 TB maple syrup = 15 grams of sugar. You get the idea, right? The amount of honey, dates or maple syrup needed to make a sweet cake is enough to make my tummy feel like a hot air balloon taking off.
WHY “WHOLE FOODS” TREATS ROCK
1) They make changing your diet less scary
The more people who eat healthy food the better and I am thrilled by anything that helps people get off the doritos and beer. When you see a recipe for “pizza” or “cereal” the thought of giving up processed food is less intimidating. Whole foods versions of your old favorite foods, to enjoy on occasion, are not bad things… and definitely won’t do the same number on your health as pulling through the drive-through window of your ex-favorite, fast food establishment.
2) They give birthday cake back to the people who otherwise couldn’t have it
There are a lot of people (myself included) who found a whole foods diet not because they wanted to lose the last five pounds or look better in a bikini, but because they have a potentially life threatening illness or disease and nothing else is helping. I had all but given up on having cookies again before I found some of these fabulous autoimmune protocol recipe wizards. We don’t have the option of having a donut without severe consequences. These recipes give the chance to indulge in celebratory treats back to a lot of really sick people. Hats off to all of you who are making life on the autoimmune protocol a little bit sweeter (pun intended).
Remember that whole foods treats and convenience foods are exactly that, treats and convenience foods. They should be enjoyed as occasional treats and not to replace nutrient dense, whole food meals.
If you are initiating the autoimmune protocol to heal from an autoimmune disease, any recipe that calls for more than a spoonful of sweetener is not AIP approved, rather AIP friendly. If you are noticing a plateau in your healing, be honest about how much sugar you are eating. Once you have improved significantly you might be able to eat some of these autoimmune protocol treats…. but they should probably be reserved for special occasions that happen once a year, like your birthday, and not used to curb your monthly sweet tooth.
This last one is for me…. never, and I repeat NEVER, make a whole batch of autoimmune protocol friendly baked goods if you are the only one around to eat them. Just one cookie has concentrated sugar, so imagine how I am feeling after eating the whole batch? For those of you who have great self control and are able to eat one cookie a day this might not be a problem but if you are like me, save treats for days when you have company or are going to a party! These delicious treats from He won’t Know it’s Paleo will be a hit at any special event.
As far as I am concerned my plan from here on out is to follow my own advice. While it has been fun and tempting to dabble in autoimmune protocol friendly baking, I will have to leave it for JUST my birthday… when there are plenty of people around to help me eat my sugary treat. I won’t feel deprived, I can still eat lemon hibiscus jello and blueberry gummies or frozen berries with coconut milk.
What about you, how do you tolerate “whole foods” treats? How do you feel about all of the “paleo” convenience foods on the market these days?