Tuesday, July 21, 2009

'O' Type Diet Meets SCD - an Update


Jennifer Maloney reminded me that it was time I gave you an update on my 'O' blood type meets SCD experiment, and so I shall gentle reader.

Let me start by saying that finding the right way to eat for yourself is always a process of fine tuning. Despite my extensive knowledge of diet and nutrition, unless I keep an ear peeled for the chatter and hum of my belly and blood conversing - I can still get out of balance and eat the wrong thing.

To change my SCD diet to an 'O' blood type compliant one I did the following:

1 - Gave up all cow's milk products and minimised my consumption of dairy generally. I changed to goat butter and goat or sheep yogurt, consuming the smallest quantity of cheese a couple of times a week.

I find dairy the hardest element to balance because I do eat a little yogurt every morning (about 2-3tbs) and sometimes want some butter in my celeriac purée or on my peas. Then I might crave a little bit of goat cheese and that could be a too much dairy in a day. It's a balancing act. My advice with dairy for 'O' types is to have a lot less than you want and then try to reduce it again and you should be ok.

2 - Gave up all coconut products.

This was initially very tough as I had been using coconut oil to cook with, eating shredded coconut on my breakfast, nibbling the odd lump of creamed coconut and drinking the milk in tea or using it in Thai soups. However, I knew I wasn't digesting it on some level and when I gave it up it felt right.

3 - Stopped using black pepper and vanilla.

Whilst this might seem oddly minor, I often used to find that black pepper made me a little belchy, but I happily ground it over pretty much everything I ate - because it's good for you right? In the foods that didn't have pepper, I merrily sprinkled vanilla and so these two seemingly insignificant elements had a huge presence in my diet. I switched to mild chilli flakes, pul biber, urfa biber, fresh chillies and chipotle chilli powder when I wanted a pepper kick to my food and belched less almost instantly!

4 - Stopped eating cabbage, aubergines, strawberries, blackberries, avocado, melon, oranges, capers, cauliflower, mushrooms and rhubarb.

Strangely, when I look at the list above, although I love the taste of all of those foods, I have a feeling of unease when I think about eating them. I never got on well with mushrooms, always felt a little bilious after aubergines and the last time I ate cauliflower and rhubarb (not together!) I was painfully bloated (and worse) for days.

As hedges swell with ripening blackberries and the grocer's table groans with fat, sweet, local strawberries, I do feel a twinge of longing for the taste of those fruits. But I console myself with a paper bag full of garnet cherries and a punnet of Scottish raspberries instead and my body thanks me for exercising my will power.

5 - Stopped eating pork.

Again, although my heart beats a little faster for a slice of smokey chorizo and a rasher of crisp salty bacon, pork does not love me back. Before embarking on 'O' type, I had instinctively reduced my consumption of pork products to ham, bacon and sugar free cured meat - as a large amount of pork would leave me feeling slightly nauseas. When I switched ham for cold roast beef or pressed ox tongue and a few salty roast nuts in place of bacon, I definitely felt better.

6 - Cut out brazils, pistachios, peanuts and cashews.

SCD can be a nut heavy diet and yet not all nuts are created equal. Many people struggle to digest cashews as they are very mildly poisonous. Although I love pistachios, they never liked me much and every effort to eat peanut butter was met with a resounding defeat. In their place I ate almonds, walnuts, hazels and pecans. It makes sense to me that nuts (bar pecans) which grow in this country, or at the farthest in Europe, should suit my constitution. I wonder whether 'O' types on other continents would find local nuts a more suitable choice too?

I try not to eat too many nuts, rarely eat nut bread and aim to snack on raw fruit and vegetables in their place. Nuts are not the best source of protein for 'O' types and my experience bears that out, plus they are very dehydrating and must be consumed with lots of water, or soaked first.

Eggs were another food that can be over-consumed on SCD and I stopped eating them for breakfast every day, eating the occasional omelette for lunch instead. I don't eat pulses at all because they just don't agree with me - I may try aduki beans at a later date as they are supposed to be beneficial, but I'm not holding my breath!

Finally, I took up more vigorous exercise to complement my hunter gatherer and found that my mood lifted, muscles responded and energy improved. It turns out that my body and soul are made for quick bursts of intensity and I felt filled with life after each punishing circuit class.

My conclusion is that SCD plus 'O' type is the best thing for me. I don't agree wholesale with the ideas of either system because diet has to be based on each individual and their unique quirks. With each week that passes I continue to refine what I eat and resist the temptation to over complicate and over process. 

What I find myself coming back to time and again is Michael Pollen's timeless statement, 'Eat food, not too much, mostly plants'. We all know that we should aim for food that has a real connection to the earth by basing the bulk of our diet on vegetables. Fruit, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, dairy and preserved foods should contribute a smaller part than they do for the most part, in a world where everything is just a few short steps to the fridge. The hum and chatter of our bellies and blood serves as a readily available barometer that can teach us all we need to know, if we just learn to listen.