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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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6 Comments to "More on the Paleo Diet Paradigm"

  1. Kathe says:

    Great post. Some of the psudo-science I see coming out of fad diets is scary.

  2. James Hahn II says:

    This sounds all well and good, but I can personally attest to the fact that cutting grains *alone* will make you lose weight. I’ve been eating nothing but REAL, unpackaged, unprocessed food since 2006. “Meat, Fruit, Vegetables, and 100% Whole Grains” I used to say. Yup, I bought into the idea of “healthy whole grains” and soap boxed about them plenty for years. However, when they started making me break out in hives, I cut them out completely and immediately lost 15 pounds. I didn’t even know I could lose that much weight since I had already lost 87 pounds and had 13% bf. But, it was the grains and nothing else. So, nice theory about processed foods being the smoking gun, but it doesn’t square with reality.

    • Kate Gardner says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, James. It sounds like if you were having a reaction to grains, thay you probably developed an intolerance or allergy. However, that is not the case for the majority of the population – so omitting them wouldn’t do any good. You raise a good point though – if you’re having any kind of negative reaction to a food, speak with your physician because there are many food allergens (nuts, soy, wheat, etc) that could be the source of your discomfort! The reality is that everyone is different – and you have to know your own body in order to feed it properly.

      • James Hahn II says:

        I totally agree with you there on knowing yourself. And, in all honesty, I’m a dietary agnostic. If something is working for you, whether it’s Vegan, WAPF, Paleo, etc., I really don’t care what it is, as long as you find something that works, which means it’s something you can do for the rest of your life. I just had to reply, though, because you singled out processed foods throughout the article as being the main culprit, but that wasn’t the problem for me and I’m sure I’m not alone.

        Regardless, you’ve got over 3K Twitter followers, so if your message can get through and help some of them start eating real, then I’m not mad at you.

  3. Took a lot of time to read but I really found this very interesting and informative, thank you buddy for sharing.

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