Quite possibly the hottest diet today, the Paleo Diet has received much fame with a rapidly growing number of followers. Celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Megan Fox, Miley Cyrus, and Matthew McConaughey follow anywhere from a strict to adjusted ‘paleo-esque’ type diet, as do many athletes such as LA Laker’s Kobey Bryant. Many Olympians and professional athletes profess to its health and performance boosting results.
The paleo craze is similar to that of crossfit in that they both present viable principles to achieving superior levels of health and fitness. Yet, their extremities, if not understood and adjusted, can cause serious health problems or injury. In fact, it’s not surprising that many followers of the paleo diet are found in crossfit circles.
What is the Paleo-diet?
Dr. Loren Cordain, Ph.D. is credited as the founder of the Paleo movement which establishes a proclaimed “healthy” way of eating based on the paleolithic times. It may also be referred to as the “stone age diet”, “caveman diet”, or “hunter-gatherer diet”.
It focuses on the foods eaten in pre-agricultural times, primarily those that that are hunted down or foraged for, such as: grass-fed beef, seafood, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthy oils such as avocado, coconut, olive, flaxseed, and walnut oils. Grains, potatoes, refined sugars, and dairy products are forbidden on the diet. Some Paleo Diets on the market do allow for sweet potatoes.
Furthermore all refined and processed foods that weren’t in existence in the Paleolithic era are also off limits. Its premise is built on the idea that the human body’s metabolic system has not evolved to properly process the modern diet, particularly legumes, grains, and dairy, as well as the multitude of processed foods that line the shelves of grocery stores.
Is the Paleo-diet truly healthy?
Due to the heavy influence of the Paleo Diet, restaurants are beginning to offer ‘hunter and gatherer’ menu options while some restaurant’s entire existence is built upon this Paleolithic philosophy of eating. Whether it’s healthy for you or not depends on who you ask. More importantly, it depends on you, your current level of health, and most importantly the quality of the foods chosen. There is definitely value offered by the Paleolithic way of eating, and many of their recommendations would benefit everyone without fail, yet other aspects may present problems for many people.
Quite possibly its strongest point, the Paleo Diet supports the consumption of large volumes of non-starchy vegetables. Humans consistently overlook the consumption of vegetables— the most nutrient-dense, life-giving foods available. Eating an average of 70% of your diet in fresh fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables), particularly raw, is definitely a must for anyone aspiring to be healthy.
Ditch the dairy
Equally strong is its recommendation to eliminate dairy products. Dairy products are problematic for most people whether they are aware of it or not. Once dairy has been denatured through pasteurization and homogenization, it truly lacks any benefit to the human body. It is merely mucous-building and inflammatory, so unless you seek out local grass-fed raw milk, leave the dairy for the calves.
The elimination of processed foods and refined sugars is right on point as these are the biggest culprits in our disease-ridden, obesity-epidemic world. These foods are merely low-dose poisons, scarily legal. Your body does not know how to process them nor do they offer you any authentic nutrition, in fact, quite the contrary. Obesity, illness, ADD, ADHD, wheat- and gluten- intolerances, etc. in most cases stem from the problematic nature of these pseudo foods. If your great grandmother didn’t consider it food, you’d be wise to leave it off your plate.
Focusing on healthful oils while eliminating refined vegetable oils is definitely a winning point of the Paleo Diet. Consuming these healthy oils unheated, with the exception of coconut oil, is ideal for your health: olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut. Fermented cod liver oil along with sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seed oils are also good for you.
Heavy on the protein
Too much protein is never a good thing for the body. It takes the digestive tract much time to properly break down heavy proteins such as animal meats and seafood. Due to their high transit time in the digestive tract heavy protein meals are best eaten in moderation and alternated between meals that exclude heavy proteins. This will help avoid stagnation in the gut.
As a society, we eat way too much meat, consuming it at nearly every meal. Our lack of knowledge here has created a gluttony that encourages filthy industrialized farming practices. The unscrupulous injection of antibiotics and hormones into farm animals taints our meat and our health due to its ripple effect. It’s really a sad affair.
The Paleo Diet promotes “grass-fed” beef, yet we must use our discernment in assessing whether many of the meats that are advertised as “grass-fed” are truthfully so. Often, they are merely “grass-finished,” meaning the livestock ate grains prior to the ‘finish’ and quite possibly even GMO grains. Definitely buy those labeled “organic” and “grass fed” yet the smartest route is to buy local organic grass fed. This extra effort is not only good for your health, it also supports the local farming industry which must expand if we are to become a truly healthy nation. Buy local, buy health.
Seafood is not much better. Most ancient scriptures, including the Bible, clearly state that shellfish and bottom feeders should not be eaten. In the realm of fish as a whole, the unfortunate truth is that most are ridden with numerous pollutants, including heavy metals. Until we repair our oceans, we recommend sticking to wild caught Salmon and leaving the rest behind.
Not all grains are created equal
The elimination of all grains is not necessarily a good thing. Each food serves a purpose and offers a unique variety of nutrients not found in other foods. The problem with most grains is not in the grain itself, but in the processed aspect of them. The spraying of fields and GMO produced foods are the trouble makers. Many believe that the wheat- and gluten-intolerances proliferating today may merely be an intolerance to the Roundup sprayed on crops at harvest time. This practice maximizes harvest and profits. Most of the problems with out foods today lie in the fact that profits are the priority—not nutritious foods.
There are a handful of pure high-quality grains to choose from and among the best are: millet, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa (technically a seed). These are great options to interweave into your non-meat meals.
Eating a plethora of vegetables with a small portion of grains is a very healthful option. Consuming meat meals with a plentiful selection of non-starchy vegetables, and no grain, is also a smart choice. Mixing it up and having meat at some meals and grains at another, never combining the two (based on food combining rules), offers a wider variety of nutrients, and doesn’t overload your body with too many heavy proteins.
Grains should be soaked to eliminate phytates, nature’s way of protecting these plants from environmental factors. These same phytates make grains hard to properly digest (unless soaked). Soaking has double benefits as it also increases nutrient content. The same goes for all seeds and nuts.
“Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat…”
Beans are also considered a heavy protein and should be eaten in moderation. Eliminating them entirely, like grains, is not necessary, nor recommended. They also must be soaked to aid the digestion process. Eating them unsoaked and/or in large quantities is how the above rhyme came to be known. They are extremely hard for the body to digest and flatulance is your body telling you so. Lentils and mung beans are some of your most nutritious options.
Overlooks Cultured Foods
Culturing foods is a powerful process that increases nutrient values, boosting probiotic and enzyme levels. These foods are crucial to achieving superhuman health. In fact, they’re essential in healing the growing number of immune and gut disorders.
Integrating cultured vegetables into every meal is a surefire way to boost your immunity and overall health. They are especially recommended as an addition to your heavy protein meals as they will assist with the difficulty of digesting them. Cultured coconut water is also a great addition to a healthy, immune boosting diet.
The Paleo diet hits the mark by calling for the elimination of many food items that lead to the degenerative disease process, such as: processed foods, refined sugar, and dairy. Yet, it leans too much on heavy proteins and calls for the unnecessary removal of all grains—even super nutritious ones.
In closing, the most significant concepts to grasp and integrate from this article into your life are: ditch dairy, refined sugars, and processed foods; increase your veggies ten-fold; stick to wild caught salmon; healthy grains are good (soaked and in moderation); and make sure you’re truly eating organic 100% grass fed meats. If you eat as much meat and seafood as the paleo diet recommends and it’s tainted—you are doing yourself a huge disservice.
Healthy soaked grains substituted for some of those heavy protein meals is a must, particularly if you can’t guarantee your meat is pure. The only way you can do that, is to buy from your local farmers. Of course, they must use sustainable non-toxic practices. Still, meat is difficult to digest and is not recommended for more than 10% of your diet. If you’re looking for superhuman health here’s your ratio: 70% fresh fruits and veggies (mostly veggies), 10% organic grass-fed beef, wild-caught salmon, pastured eggs, and nutritious soaked beans, 10% healthful soaked grains, and 10% seeds, nuts, and healthy oils. Real food, common sense, and balance.