I don’t normally write book reviews, but I think this is a great book and a lot of people would benefit from reading it. In case your thinking “oh no” not another Paleo book this is a bit different, in fact Robb has moved away from his evangelistic Paleo ways and focuses more on just eating real food.
Robb lets us know that he now enjoys foods like lentils which are a “forbidden” food by the Paleo purists, I like this approach of eating the best foods for you, rather than follow a particular dogma.
The biggest take away from the book that I think many people would benefit from is the “7 day carb test”, we will go into more detail about how this is done in a minute.
The Paleo Diet
While I think the Paleo diet is a great way to eat, not everyone has to eliminate foods such as rice, legumes and dairy from their diet, the key is working out the best way to eat for you …. and surprise surprise this is going to vary for everyone.
Not everyone has to avoid rice just because it is “not paleo”, many people do fine eating rice (I would hate to eliminate sushi!) and testing how your body reacts to rice is the best option.
Wired to Eat is divided into two parts, the first part gives you the “why”, while the second part of the book gives you the “how” to get you on track.
Part one - How you are wired to eat
A lot of the information in this section I already new from previous research and study (reading research is my fun hobby), but there was still some new research studies that I had not come across, and what I really like about Wired to Eat is that it is presented in such an easy to understand way, which is great if your not interested in deciphering research studies.
A big emphasis in part one of the book is how we are hard wired to any energy rich palatable foods, and the big food companies do a great job making foods that are hyper palatable but nutrient poor that our taste buds have trouble resisting.
It is these refined foods that create inflammation, have a negative impact on our gut bacteria, and affect the hormones that control hunger and satiety.
Wired to Eat breaks down the science on how our diets influence our gut bacteria, it is this gut bacteria that can affect our weight, mood, skin …. basically all aspects of our health are impacted by our gut bacteria.
Some of the digestion problems that this can cause include SIBO and Candida overgrowth, which can cause constipation, diarrhea, bloating and reflux.
"Although our physiology does track our net energy balance via body fat and blood glucose levels, people often reduce this story to the overly simplistic idea of “calories in, calories out.” Hormones and neurotransmitters like insulin, leptin, and ghrelin are equally important and inseparable elements of how much we eat (the neuroregulation of appetite) and influence if we are lean or overweight. Calories do count, but not all foods produce the same metabolic and hormone affect." Robb Wolf
The Four Legged Stool
Diet is only one aspect of health, Robb Wolf uses the analogy of the four legged stool, if your missing even one leg then you are not going to be balanced. The four areas that Wired to Eat focuses on are diet, sleep, movement and community, and the book goes into some detail about each section.
"Yes, our food has a massive impact on our gut health, but so too do stress, sleep, exercise, birth history, antibiotic use, and light exposure. Each of these topics feeds back on gut health in highly complex ways that are outside the scope of this book, but this is why I put such emphasis on these topics as part of our overall program." Robb Wolf
Part Two - Rewire and Reset for Weight Loss and Health
The two main focuses in this half of the book are the 30 day reset diet and the 7 day carb test. There is also a special chapter on ketosis, who this approach is for and who should not do the keto diet, as well as recipes for the elimination diet.
Before you get started on the 30 day reset or the 7 day carb test, it is recommended that you get some baseline measurements like your waist to hip ratio, blood pressure, as well as blood testing to get an accurate idea of where you are at with your health.
The 30 day reset is similar to most elimination diets, and if you have never tried an elimination diet I think it is worth doing at least once to identify the foods that you make you feel good, and those that don’t.
I like Robb Wolf’s approach to the 30 day reset, while he does give you some recipes, the section that I liked the most is the template on how to create hundred’s of meal options from the foods that are allowed on the 30 day reset. The template is great for anyone who has struggled with an elimination diet but felt there was “nothing to eat”
The 7 Day Carb Test
In the first section of the book it went into detail about how different people can respond differently to different foods, especially carbohydrates. Not everyone is going to get the same blood sugar response from eating rice, lentils, potato or banana. In fact you may see a large spike in blood sugar after eating fruit, but not from rice or potatoes, and for other people it will be the complete opposite.
This is where the 7 day carb test comes in, it is a step by step approach to work out which carbohydrates are the best for you to eat, what you should avoid or limit to occasional foods.
Step by step guide to the 7 day carb test:
1. The first step is to get a blood glucose monitor, I like the Precision Xtra because you can also measure your ketones (not important for this test but great if you experiment with ketosis).
2. Download a free app like My Fitness Pal or one of the many others out there which will help you to work out how much 50 grams of net carbohydrates is equivalent to. In Wired to Eat there is also an extensive list of foods and how much you have to eat to get 50 grams of carbohydrates, below are just a couple of examples.
Examples of 50 grams of carbohydrates
- White rice 1.14 cups
- Lentils 2.18 cups
- Potato 2 cups
- Sweet Potato 1.45 cups
- Raw carrots 5.8 cups (you would have to really like carrots to test this!!)
- Banana 1.1 cups
- Grapes 2 cups
3. For breakfast eat a food with 50 grams of net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fibre), don’t eat any other foods or drinks at this time, unless you have the same drink like coffee or tea with every “test” that you do. Remember this is your own personal scientific experiment to test what carbs work the best for you so we need to minimize any variables.
4. Track your glucose levels with your blood glucose monitor 2 hours after the meal. Ideally this level will be less than 115 mg/dl (U.S) or 6.3 nmol/l (rest of the world).
5. If your blood glucose levels are higher than 115mg/dl / 6.3nmol/l then you are sensitive to this carbohydrate that you tested. You can retest with 25 grams of carbohydrate to see if it is still above the upper limit, if yes then you should avoid this food, if below that means you can get away with eating smaller amounts of this food.
6. Also pay attention to other symptoms after the carbohydrate meal, this can include fatigue, brain fog, headaches, mood changes and joint pain. If you have a lower blood sugar response but you are getting negative symptoms you maybe getting an immune response to this food.
It is called the 7 day carb test but depending on how many foods you decide to experiment with it may take longer than 7 days, though you don’t have to test everything, just your favourite carbohydrate foods.
It is worth reading Wired to Eat for the 7 day carb test alone.
Why is it so important to not have high glucose levels
Diabetes is a modern disease caused by our diet and lifestyle choices, it is one of the most preventable health conditions yet it is estimated that 27% of people in countries like the U.S, U.K and Australia have pre diabetes and 10% of people have diabetes.
Diabetes is now the 7th leading cause of death, and it severely impacts your quality of life, affecting many areas of health and implicated in many different health conditions.
Your optimal fasting glucose should be between 75 - 85 mg/dl (U.S) or 4.2 - 5 nmol/l (rest of the world), if your levels are consistently higher than this you may have pre diabetes.
Long term implications of hyperglycaemia
- Cardiovascular disease
- Nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Kidney damage
- Damage to blood vessels of the retina leading to cataracts and blindness
- Bone and Joint problems
- Skin problems
- Mood disorders
Studies of people eating traditional diets suggest that hyperglycaemia is a modern disease since high blood sugar, obesity and diabetes are rarely found in people eating traditional diets, or following a hunter and gatherer lifestyle.
Causes of hyperglycaemia include
- Diet, in particular refined carbohydrates
- Physical inactivity
- Sleep deprivation
- Chronic stress
- Environmental toxins
- Gut bacteria
- Genetics, this will only be a cause if there are other factors involved.
Wired to Eat will not only help you to understand the "why" in regards to diet, sleep, movement and community in regards to optimizing your health, but more importantly it will give the "how"!
Once you have finished this book you will have a roadmap to help you work out the your optimal personalized diet. Enjoy!