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Is the Paleo Diet Healthy? You Might Be Surprised
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Hey, guys, welcome to another episode of the Super Nutrition Academy Health Class. Today we are going to be dissecting a recent Q-and-A that was posted on CNN.com. Someone was asking: Is the Paleo diet healthy? And the answer, it might be…well, I thought it was a little bit shocking.
The question, as I just mentioned, the person was, they’re saying they’re obese and they’ve been working on losing weight for three years. They’ve been working with a number of different nutritionists and personal trainers, and they stumbled upon the Paleo diet and was wondering if it’s healthy. This is a response from the same author, the same physician-nutrition specialist who, in one of the previous episodes we talked about, had really kind of had it bang-on with respect to the breast cancer diet. This time her answer to the Paleo-diet question was that no, it’s not health and it’s a fad diet.
Obviously, I’m not Paleo. I don’t really label myself as anything. What’s funny is that when you consider that Paleo is actually one of the healthier diets out there, or ways of eating out there, it’s kind of weird that she kind of discredited the health benefits of Paleo.
First of all, what is Paleo? Paleo basically is eating like our Paleolithic ancestors. It’s essentially eating meat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts more or less. There’re thousands of people, millions of people, obviously, following that kind of plan and it works, it’s great. The benefit really is that you’re not consuming dairy; you’re not consuming refined sugar, processed oils. It’s very, for the most part, a clean diet.
My only apprehension with it is that it’s very high in animal products and animal meats, which I’m not too concerned about the saturated fat, which a lot of medical doctors are. For whatever reason, they still think that has a big impact. I’m more concerned about what it does to acidity levels in the body. When we become too acidic, we start manifesting states of acidosis, which then becomes a breeding ground for potential disease. Meat also, again, it’s tough on the digestive system. Obviously, it is tougher to digest a steak than it is to digest an apple, as an example. I’m not saying that you have to have an apple instead of a steak.
Nonetheless, it does have a lot of benefits. There are a lot of health benefits with going Paleo, simply because you’re removing the sugar, the grains, and all that other garbage that is the real culprit of most of the problems we have now with respect to health. This doctor was talking about the cons to this diet.
Four of the cons that she mentions, the first one is that the diet eliminates dairy, “an affordable and widely available source of bone-building calcium,” which is complete and utter garbage, nonsense, and protein. “Yes, calcium can be obtained from other greens and other foods, but it is more challenging to consume adequate amounts,” which is not necessarily true.
Again, this is a huge myth that continues to pollute the minds of millions of people. Dairy is…it’s one of the biggest fallacies of all time. Yes, it has a good amount of calcium, but it also has way too much phosphorous. The ration of phosphorous to calcium is out of whack for human absorption, which means when you drink cow’s milk, you’re consuming higher amounts of calcium, but you’re also drinking higher amounts of phosphorus, and phosphorus inhibits calcium absorption in the stomach. That’s why the countries with the highest consumption rates of milk also have the highest rates of osteoporosis.
Don’t worry about the dairy. Just eat plenty of leafy, green vegetables; they have an abundance of calcium. And if you’re worried about your bones, just make sure you’re physically active—weight-bearing exercise—and that the pH of your blood is more alkaline. If you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, more of a plant-based diet anyways, your blood will be more alkaline. You won’t have any issues, believe me.
Second con according to this doctor is that the diet eliminates all grains, including whole grains, which are a good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fiber and foods such as beans, peanuts, and sweet potatoes, all of which have numerous health-promoting qualities. Yeah, I would probably stick with keeping in the beans, maybe not on a daily basis, because legumes and beans do have things called lectins, which are antinutrients, so you don’t want to go too crazy with them.
But with the grains, as I’ve mentioned before, there really are no, zero, redeeming qualities of bread or whole wheat or whole grains as far as I’m concerned. The only ones, really, we should be eating are the nonglutenous ones; quinoa, amaranth, millet, buckwheat. Everything else, throw it in the garbage. Move away from the bread, move away from the pasta; you don’t need that stuff. There’s no reason you can’t get—first of all, you’re not going to get many vitamins and minerals out of bread. You can get all that stuff elsewhere.
Other than the fact that we’re just so accustomed to eating bread and all that kind of garbage all the time and cereals, and, remember, there’s a huge amount of money and lobbying behind the whole grain industry. We don’t need to go down that path, but when I see this kind of stuff, it just makes me cringe. We don’t need whole grains; it’s not the end of the world. If you’re without them, you’re going to be a lot better off. We know that wheat and gluten is associated with over 190 autoimmune disorders and a host of other problems.
Con number three is that the Paleo diet is high in animal protein, which could lead to an excess intake of saturated fat, resulting in elevated cholesterol levels, an increased risk in heart disease, an increased risk of certain types of cancer. Yes, I would agree to some degree with that. I’m not a huge proponent of eating a huge amount of animal. I think maybe a few times a week is more than enough. And at that, you only need, a piece of meat the size of the palm of your hand is more than enough. We eat way too much meat as far as I’m concerned.
Yes, you’re getting an increased intake of saturated fat, but saturated fat’s not necessarily the worst thing depending on the source of where it’s coming firm. If you’re getting saturated fat from grass-fed beef, which most of us aren’t, then that’s a different type, different quality of saturated fat than if you’re getting it from commercially raised cows that are injected with hormones and antibiotics. Remember, all that stuff is going to sit and reside in the fat tissue.
Again, my main concern is that it upsets the pH balance in the bloodstream, which makes you more acidic, which leads to a whole host of other things like acidosis-related problems like bone deterioration, potentially cancer down the road, arterial scarring, which can lead to cholesterol deposits, and all that fun stuff. The other thing is that high amounts of animal protein can lead to things like gout as a result of high amounts of uric acid being deposited.
Animal protein, if you’re going to eat animal products, that’s fine; just keep it in moderation. Remember, my rule of thumb is: More plant-based is the way to go. But it’s not about being 100 percent plant-based if that’s not right for you. Eating more plant-based foods, adding in quality meats and animal products where necessary, and that means free-run, organic, or grass-fed. That’s ideally what you want to be looking for. I know it’s not as accessible or achievable or financially viable for everyone, but just do your best.
Fourth con she mentions here is that, “Finally, the diet can be expensive. Grass-fed, organic meats and eggs are more expensive and inconvenient due to the limitation of food choices, both of which make the diet less practical for the average person long-term.” Well, here’s my question: What are you eating instead? What are you eating instead of grass-fed beef? Even if you ate commercially raised beef, you can still follow a Paleolike plan.
It’s not like…unless you’re eating completely plant-based—here’s the way I see it, and I talked about this with Abel on one of our podcasts on this Paleo issue. The only difference between being vegan and Paleo is that Paleo adds in some meat. That’s it, right? Both parties, both philosophies are all about eating tons of plant foods. Paleo simply adds in meat. That’s pretty much the biggest difference.
My question is: If you’re not following a Paleo diet or a way of eating where you’re eating a lot of fruits an vegetables and then some animal products, how are you eating? Are you a vegan? If so, that’s fine, but if you’re not that, what are you doing? And even if you’re vegan, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy. Even if you’re Paleo, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy.
The thing I like about Paleo is that it really focuses on real food. It’s going back to nature, going back to real food, and I don’t see why that’s a problem. I don’t see any of these people talk about the real big problem, which is the packaged, processed garbage that we find in our supermarkets. If grass-fed beef is too expensive, then what are we eating instead? Kraft dinners, cereal, all that crap that’s really causing the problem? You’re better off maybe having two, three cuts of good-quality meat a week, and the other days you’re more plant-based or whatever else. But, again, just really steer clear of the stuff in packages and boxes. You’ll be a thousand times better off. That’s the recommendation.
Her final conclusion was that, she says, “Overall, I would steer clear of the Paleo diet, but we can take away something from our ancestors by eating foods closer to their natural state,” obviously, “which are more nutrient-dense and digested more slowly by the body. In most cases they lead to better hunger control, more stable blood sugar levels, and weight loss if calories are reduced and exercise is increased.”
That kind of actually sounds like a little bit of an endorsement for the Paleo diet right there. Everything she just mentioned—more nutrient-dense, digested more slowly, stabilizes blood sugar, stabilizes hunger, enables weight loss—those are all pretty good benefits of following a Paleo diet. So, if the real issue is cost, then, by all means, don’t go grass-fed. Just eat less meat, maybe choose better quality where possible; choose organic wherever possible.
But even if you don’t, if you’re eating commercially raised meat, yes, it’s bad but… Again, the whole idea is just to go back closer to real foods; foods that are found in nature; foods that are grown naturally, animals that are raised naturally. That’s the key. And move away from the stuff that’s found in packages, boxes. That, I think, is a real issue.
If this person wants to lose weight, as far as I’m concerned, the Paleo diet is not a fad. It was here since the beginning of humans and it still exists. Countless people are using it successfully. But, again, there are principles that work that will help pretty much any diet. Whether you’re following Atkins, Zone, or anything else, people will succeed on those diets. Maybe we’ll talk about those principles in an upcoming episode.
Anyways, that’s all for today. I want to hear what your personal philosophy is on nutrition. I’d love to hear your feedback, what you kind of follow in terms of dietary advice. Again, I don’t care about the labels. If you call yourself Paleo or vegan or whatever it is, that’s fine, but I’d love to hear your feedback.
Join me at the blog, SuperNutritionAcademy.com/blog, find post Episode 61: Is the Paleo Diet Healthy? And let me know, are you plant-based? Do you eat meat all the time? What’s your diet look like? I’d love to find out; I’d love to hear your feedback. Join me on the blog, leave me your comments there, and I look forward to seeing you guys in the next episode.
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