“The Paleo Diet” is a term originally coined by Dr. Loren Cordain in 2010. For the purpose of this article, I will use the term “paleo lifestyle” to encompass the many different approaches that now exist.
The term paleo is derived from paleolithic, as the key concepts take us back to what our caveman ancestors ate. You can read all the details here, but in summary, paleo prioritises meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Or basically, natural nutrition. What you don’t eat with a paleo lifestyle is gluten, grains, refined sugar, refined seed oils, dairy or legumes.
Personally, I am grateful for the popularisation of the paleo lifestyle as it has brought to our attention that the food pyramid is wrong. Yes, it was created by the agricultural industry with simply their own interest in mind.
Here are some of the facts that the paleo lifestyle has helped support, and as a result, bust the top food myths of the last five decades:
- There is in fact no requirement for wholegrains, when fibre can be found in higher quantities in fruit and vegetables, accompanied by essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Two of my favourite resources are It All Starts With Food and already, the newly released Grain Brain.
- Pasteurised cow’s milk is devoid of nutrients as they are destroyed by the heat treatment. If you want calcium, eat green leafy vegetables, bony fish and sesame seeds for a start. Recap this here.
- Saturated fat does not cause heart disease. More on that here.
- Low cholesterol is not an indication of health. Cholesterol is one of the most vitally important substances. Every cell is made from it, and all steroid hormones are synthesized from it, including all sex and adrenal hormones. Cholesterol is also essential for the formation and function of each memory synapse in our brain. Elevated cholesterol is not the problem, it is a symptom of the real cause of heart disease – inflammation. Grab yourself a copy of Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore for more information.
- Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They contain 11 vitamins and minerals and are one of the highest sources of vitamin D. Eggs do not cause heart disease (refer to point 4). Please eat your yolks.
So why don’t I prescribe to a paleo lifestyle?
Personally, I don’t need a dietary label. I just eat real food. When “The Paleo Diet” first became popular it was quite restrictive, dogmatic and almost militant. It’s great to see this has now changed. Two of my favourite influential bloggers, Diane Sanfilippo from Balanced Bites and Danielle Walker from Against All Grain, are teaching moderation and non-judgement, and denouncing perfectionism. And I couldn’t be more happier about this. If you don’t have both of their cookbooks, you must.
I’m happily gluten, refined sugar and seed oil free, but I don’t eat paleo per se as I feel the following foods have their place. I enjoy them and I’m more than happy for you to include them in your natural nutrition lifestyle too.
- Rice malt syrup. As it is made from rice, a grain, it is not an approved paleo sweetener. The great thing about rice malt syrup is that it is fructose free and therefore a better choice than honey or maple syrup (which are both paleo approved). Read more about why I use rice malt syrup here. It is the only grain derivative I do eat though, and you can read more on why in the aforementioned Grain Brain.
- Goat’s feta. As it is dairy, it is not paleo. Personally I choose to eat Goat’s feta as it is a more tolerable form of caesin (A2). If you have a lactose intolerance, you may also find you can tolerate Goat’s feta, but this will come down to individual tolerance.
- Chickpeas. Legumes (and yes, peanuts are legumes) are not consumed on a paleo diet, due to the supposed high phytic acid content. Paleo supporters believe this interferes with nutrient absorption, but new research now shows this may only be an issue in situations of poor gut health. I happily prioritise gut health and enjoy hummus on occasions. More on gut health coming soon.
In summary, there are many great aspects of following a paleo lifestyle. As you know, I believe everyone should be gluten free, refined sugar free and refined seed oil free. Find an approach that works for you and ensure it is one that is nutrient dense, sustainable and enjoyable. As I always say, food is to nourish, share and enjoy and certainly not a quest for perfectionism.
Do you follow a paleo lifestyle? Or do you choose not to because of your favourite foods?