More on the Paleo Diet Paradigm
Check out Myth: Paleo is the Way to Go for a quick synopsis of the diet.
As a general rule, I’m skeptical of any special “diet” because, when push comes to shove, I fully and completely believe that the average healthy person should eat whatever they want – in moderate amounts. For optimal health, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and other plant foods have been associated with lower disease risk.
What’s the deal with preaching high carbs?
To which, I always want to respond with either: a) what do you have against carbs or b) prove to me that grains are bad. Which is not the most mature response, but it is the most logically sound. The bottom line is that there is a lot of research to promote the ingestion of carbs for the typical person and for athletes.
But the more important point is this: no one is preaching high carbs. I’m suggesting a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods, which is the general consensus of scientific research (ask me to prove it…go ahead, ask!). That includes, but doesn’t emphasize grains.
Ok, but you can’t possibly make the argument that phytates and proteins from grain (i.e. lectin or gluten) aren’t harmful. They leech nutrients!
I can’t? I’m pretty sure I already have. One of the arguments I’ve heard is that phytates in grains prevent the absorption of the major vitamins and minerals. However, research shows that phytates don’t have much of an effect if you eat a balanced diet and have you looked into which foods have the greatest phytate content? Nuts. Which are encouraged by paleo.
The point here is that most scientific evidence doesn’t indicate that a moderate consumption of whole grains has negative effects.
What’s all this about cholesterol?
I suppose that the argument here is that your cholesterol and blood lipids can be perfectly normal with a high consumption of saturated fat. And in active people, that’s probably true – people who are very physically fit and active do not metabolize or store nutrients the same way as sedentary individuals.
And, the less active people might not be so lucky. Here’s why: you eat a high fat diet. Fats have more calories than carbs or protein, so you eat a lot of calories in a small amount of food. You eat too many calories for a sedentary lifestyle so you gain weight. You gain enough weight and your risk of disease increases. That’s all. Nothing about blood lipids.
Many people have lost weight and report feeling great from following the Paleo diet so it’s doing something right. Why are you so down on it, Kate?
Good question. I’m not, actually. I fully support eating fewer processed foods and animals that have been raised and slaughtered ethically. But I also support whole grains, beans and low fat dairy.
In my opinion, any diet that suggests 100% omission of certain food groups should raise your eyebrow because science doesn’t support the complete omission of any single food.
Some people claim that our bodies did not evolve to eat grains. However, I’m confident that we produce enzymes in sufficient quantity to digest and absorb nutrients from grains and by definition, that’s what adaptation is. If we couldn’t eat ‘em then, we can now.
Lastly, how do you explain all the people who switch to Paleo and say they feel so much better and lose weight?
I believe them! Because any time you go from eating processed food to eating more fruits and vegetables with healthy fats, you’re going to feel better! Here are some key points:
- Processed foods are often made from grains, so when you omit processed foods, you may wrongly attribute any weight loss to the omission of grains.
- Diets high in processed foods often have a lot of refined grains, salt, fat and/or sugar. Anyone would feel better transitioning from a high fat/ high refined sugar diet to fruits and vegetables.
- And if you were eating a lot of processed foods before, you’re also probably going to lose weight because less processed foods pack in fewer calories.