The Truth About Paleo
Diets have become like religion for many. They identify themselves by it. They swear by them. They live by them and die by them – literally and figuratively. And like I respect all religions, I respect most people’s diet choices. For me, what’s important is how much you eat and the quality of what you eat. Beyond that I cater to personal preference, for the most part.
On my app I offer meal plans that range from vegan to omnivore and paleo / gluten free to vegetarian. However, I must admit that there are some things about the paleo diet I struggle with. Let’s go over things to be mindful of if you choose to adhere to this lifestyle choice.
First, I must have read at least 10 different versions of the Paleo diet when I studied it with an RD while creating meal plans for my app. Some Paleo people eat fruit, some don’t. Some eat different types of fruit only. Some eat honey, some don’t. Some eat nuts, some don’t. And the list of inconsistencies goes on. With that said, my first issue with Paleo is quality. Paleo devotees advocate meat and lots of it. However, only some of them speak to the significance of meat quality. As my registered dietician, Cheryl Forberg, likes to say “If the cow isn’t paleo neither are you”. The quality of your food is far more important than the macro-nutrients you consume. So, if you follow this diet be sure you pay close attention to quality of your proteins.
Paleo encourages too much meat consumption.
And, while we are on the topic of meat consumption, the paleo diet pushes the over consumption of meat in my opinion. Unless you have been living under a rock you know that the farming and fishing of animal protein is terrible for the environment, expensive, unnecessary for good health and likely hard on your body to process overall.
On Paleo, dairy foods, whole grains, and legumes are off-limits.
Should you really eliminate such rich calcium sources from your diet as organic low-fat Greek yogurt? Besides that, research suggests that three to four daily servings of low-fat dairy products can actually boost your body’s fat-burning potential.
The rationale against consuming grains is that they can cause inflammation, resulting in heart disease and other health conditions. Well, the facts don’t support this theory. Wheat products are only a health concern for people with celiac disease, and to put this into context, that’s 1 percent of the population.
As for legumes (which include beans, chickpeas, and peanuts), the idea is that they contain “anti-nutrients” like lectins and phytates that supposedly reduce their nutritional value to zero. But studies prove this suggestion is misleading. Cooking eliminates a lot of the anti-nutrient effects. Bottom line is the benefits of the protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals you get from legumes far outweigh the argument against them. In addition, a diet that recommends a lot of animal protein, but rules out many high fiber foods like whole grains and legumes is really a double whammy to your overall health.
My other big issue is that Paleo is founded upon mistruths. Paleolithic man was not a raging carnivore. In fact, many of the ancient human remains from this time that researchers studied died from severe anemia. Anemia is caused by lack of iron and a person who eats a ton of meat certainly isn’t anemic. In fact, research has shown us that they ate much like apes of today. And apes of today eat lots of fruits, bark, and even insects. Paleolithic man took advantage of whatever food was available, but was not capable of intellectually eating what was “ideal” for his or her physiology. In addition, they ate what they had access to. Plus, Paleolithic man had a life expectancy of 33 years. Modern man today lives to around 70.
The bottom line, if you choose to go paleo be sure that the majority of your meals are plant based. You don’t need as much meat as this diet recommends and you must be sure you get enough fiber if you pull out whole grains and legumes. Also, be sure the quality of your proteins are top notch - no hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, artificial coloring etc.