RSS Feed

Why I Wouldn’t Go on the Paleo Diet in a Million Years

photo-13

Imagine powered by Katesurf’s Sharpie marker

For a while, I felt left out… out of the loop… But, I just couldn’t buy into the whole Paleo diet, and now I know why.

I know, I know… “But, grains are slowly killing you!!!“, the Paleos all cry! For those of you who haven’t heard of the Paleo diet; it’s a diet that is meant to mimic the way our Paleolithic ancestors ate. The Paleo diet says to eat lots of veggies, fruit, meat and eggs. Foods like, grains, dairy, sugar and processed foods are out. While I do love the idea that eating paleo means cutting out processed food and refined sugar from the diet, I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of it. Historically, the idea behind going Paleo just doesn’t add up. And, ethically, there is no way in hell I can justify anyone eating heaps of cute furry animals just to follow a new fangled diet idea (and I’ll explain why the modern version of Paleo is actually just a fad). Everyone struggles with dieting though at some point in their life, if you are currently struggling with your diet, then it might be a good idea to check out something like this Discussdiets.com website to help you lose weight and become healthier.

A Short History Lesson

Research states that Paleolithic people lived between 1.5 million and 10,000 years ago during the stone age, before the agricultural revolution. According to anthropological studies, Paleolithic people were hunter gatherers and would have been opportunistic eaters. Basically, they would have eaten pretty much anything they could lay their hands on. These people lived EXTREMELY physically active lives and also lived in areas of very low population density (1 per square mile). Life was tough for the Paloelithics, but in general, they were very healthy people. They would have eaten plants, fruits, nuts seeds, roots, seeds, grains, BUGS, and maybe some eggs, fish and non-domesticated animals (as in, they would have eaten mostly lean, gamey meat like squirrels and rabbits, that they were lucky enough to snag with their stone spears). The life expectancy of a Paleolithic person was something like 33 years from birth, which is actually not too shabby, if you take into consideration frequency of physical injury, infant and child mortality and lack of modern medicine.

As time went on, research believes that human ancestors entered the next phase of evolutionary history; the Neolithic Era. People started farming and domesticating large animals. They started living in more permanent settlements and they started living in areas of higher population density. Studies from that era show that humans started to become unhealthy! Oh my! Archeological digs found that Neolithic human’s teeth from this era were riddled with cavities, people started dying of diseases and famine. Life expectancy also dropped to an all time low of 20 years old! Also, around this time, bone structure and something called ‘pelvic inlet depth‘ changed. In other words, we stopped looking so cave-man-like and our pelvic size became smaller (which unfortunately meant that women had a harder time delivering babies).

Here’s where the Paleo diet advocates get all excited over… “SEE, it’s farming and eating grains that caused the demise of human health!” Some Paleo advocates even believe that grains are responsible for the physiological change in bone structure! It’s true, some people really believe that when humans started eating grains, all of mankind has started suffered since then… But, um… HELLO?!?! Animal domestication!? Less physical activity!? Higher population density?! Sanitation was poor and population density increased as humans became less nomadic. People started living in close proximity to large domestic animals (as in, they lived close to animal parasites, feces and urine). So, there were MANY reasons behind the demise of human health. Let’s not be grain haters without a good reason!

Why the Paleos are Grain Haters

Poor Old Gluten
My room mate in uni was a celiac, and so sensitive to gluten (found in wheat), that she wouldn’t even share the same kitchen utensils as us. Even people without celiacs disease can be sensitive to wheat. Some people claim that ALL people are sensitive to wheat, and we just don’t know it… Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve searched high and low and cannot find a single study to prove that ALL people are sensitive to gluten. Although many people who go off of gluten, report feeling more energized and healthy when they cut gluten out of the diet. For me, I actually feel the opposite. I like eating gluten! Yes! I said it! I LIKE WHEAT! (GASP) I like how it makes me feel grounded. I like how it makes me feel like I’ve eaten something. Again, not saying that it’s good for everyone, because I can’t speak for all people. But, I’m pretty in tune with my body, and for me, I’ve never noticed any adverse affects from eating a moderate amount of gluten (maybe if I ate a pound of seitan, I would feel it). Also, gluten is actually a very good source of fibre and protein.

Phytic acid in grains: the supposed ‘villan’ anti-nutrient, not such a bad guy after all.
Phytic acid really gets ragged on by the Paleos. It is found in plants, particularly in the bran and seeds (in other words, grains and legumes). Phytic acid is undigestable and interferes with the body’s absorption of minerals, such as zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium. To what degree phytic acid interferes with absorption of minerals, is questionable. Studies have shown that phytic acid interfering with mineral absorption only becomes a problem in low income countries, where the diet is not varied and where only one or two grain crops are the primary source of food. Preparing grains properly, by soaking, sprouting and cooking, will reduce the amount of phytic acid. Also, eating a varied diet, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables would ensure that you’re absorbing the right amount of nutrients. Also, in some scientific studies, phytic acid has actually been found to be beneficial to people as it contains anti-cancerous and and antioxidant properties.

Grain, tooth decay and your body’s pH
The Paleos like to blame grains for tooth decay and causing acidity in the body (acidity in the body can potentially cause a whole slew of problems). Well, it is true that eating lots of refined grains (like bleached flour) will affect the pH of your body. A low pH (acidic) that stems from diet, over a long period of time, combined with other factors, such as stress, changes in bacteria colonies in your mouth, hormones, and environment, can also lead down the path to tooth decay (I’m quoting my holistic dentist here). But, grains are not the sole perpetrators for changing pH in the body and causing tooth decay! For the record, meat, fish, eggs, refined sugar and many fruits are also extremely acid forming!

The Paleo Diet is Unsustainable, Unethical and Not in Line with Human Physiology

No matter if you eat a cow that was raised in your backyard, or one that came from half way around the world, eating a meat based diet will never be as sustainable as eating plant based foods in today’s world, with 7 billion people. Never. The amount of natural resources required to make one animal grow will always be far greater than the amount of natural resources needed to grow some plants. Also, cows and other ruminant animals fart a lot and produce a lot of waste. Their farts contribute to producing green house gases and their blood, urine and feces create huge amounts of pollution. Slaughtering of animals produces a lot of waste, unless you’re an eskimo and use 100% of the animal. And, no matter how you kill an animal, it’s not really too nice, now is it… especially if you eat lots and lots of meat at every meal. Of course, some people actually kill their own animals… at least they know what’s involved with getting the food to their plate! Going to the butcher to buy a nicely package of grass fed beef is nice… but I wonder how many people would eat meat if they had to do the killing themselves (I pick my own spinach, by the way).

Human Physiology and Diet
Did you know, it can take up to 72 hours for the human body to digest meat! Fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and eggs take far less, anywhere from 1 to 6 hours respectively. It takes humans so long to digest meat because we have very long digestive tracts (other plant eating animals also have long digestive tracts). Carnivorous animals (like members of the cat family) have very short digestive tracts. Also, if you look at human’s teeth, you will find a *few* sharp teeth for ripping and tearing, but the majority of the surface area of our teeth is flat and wide… good for chewing and grinding things like plant matter. I’m not saying we all have to be vegetarian, but if you look at the proportion of how much meat people tend to eat (Paleo or not), we should think a bit about basic physiology of the human body to determine if our bodies are meant to be eating piles of meat in the first place. The real Paleolithic people would not have been eating cows, chickens, lambs or pigs. Rather, they would have been foraging in the nearby forest to grab whatever they could. The Paleo diet is essentially a fabrication based on extremely generalized claims about the diets of mankind in ancient times. Practically, this clearly isn’t a trustworthy diet. Instead, it might be wise to look into something like the Keto diet. You can find some very credible Ketogenic Supplement Reviews online that will help you get started.

Remember Atkins and Other Diet Trends?

First, everyone had candida. Then, everyone was supposed to eat raw. Then, everyone was supposed to stop eating gluten. Then, Atkins (remember the guy who died of his own diet). Now, everyone should be Paleo… hmm… do we see a trend? Keep in mind, Paleo is extremely similar to Atkins; high protein, low carb.

Ok, Mrs. Smarty Pants, What Am I Supposed to Eat Instead

If you want to learn a real ‘diet trend‘ that is based on science and 5,000 years of research, check out Ayurveda. Ayurveda is based on ancient knowledge of the body and food. It caters to individual needs and it never says that there is a ‘one size fits all‘ diet for anyone.

Also, if you’re still suspicious of grains, you might want to try some of the ancient grains, like quinoa, amaranth, sorghum and millet. It is true, that grains such as wheat, corn and rice have been genetically altered over time. I’m not talking a full on GMO, but rather, genetically modified through artificial human selection… like making flowers have sex!

I know that the Paleo diet is well meaning, and that many people are actually improving their health from it. But, I have to believe that most people on the Paleo diet are improving their health, mostly because they’re becoming more conscious of what they eat and are eating less garbage than they were before. It’s just a shame that there is so much lacking information and assumptions made when it comes to these diet trends that seem to come and go every few years. Now, I still do like eating some paleo foods here and there, and for certain people with allergies or sensitivities, then Paleo is probably a great way to go. But.. are grains really killing us? Do we need to eat lots and lots of meat in order to be healthy… I don’t think so. Do you?

P.S. A lot of my friends love Paleo diet stuff… and I love you all…

Find Katesurfs on Facebook

References
A.A. López-González, F. Grases, P. Roca, B. Mari, M.T. Vicente-Herrero, and A. Costa-Bauzá. Journal of Medicinal Food. December 2008, 11(4): 747-752. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2008.0087

John N.A. Lott1, Irene Ockenden, Victor Raboy and Graeme D. Batten (2000). Phytic acid and phosphorus in crop seeds and fruits: a global estimate. Seed Science Research, 10, pp 11-33. doi:10.1017/S0960258500000039. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=8E42D1F6A3B1FDD999AD90B23F07A12F.journals?fromPage=online&aid=693720

Gibson RS, Baily KB, Gibbs M, Fergeson EL. (2010). A review of phytate, iron, zinc and calcium concentrates in plant-based complimentary foods used in low-income countries and implications for bioavailability. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20715598

I love this dietician’s article on phytic acid, and found most of my resources from his article: http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/dissecting-anti-nutrients-the-good-and-bad-of-phytic-acid

Disclaimer: I am not a dietician and I’m not recommending anyone to go on any certain type of diet! Before going on any diet or when considering food choices, you need to take into consideration your individual needs. Speaking to a dietician or ayurvedic doctor is advisable.

29 Responses »

  1. I just wanted to throw it out there that the commercial slaughtering of animals is actually a pretty efficient operation and just about every part of the carcass from the hide to the blood and even the paunch, is made use of 🙂

    When it comes to diet, I’m a fan of everything in moderation – including moderation itself!

    Reply
  2. Very well researched. I have been thinking along the same lines. I am usually vegetarian, but am eating one meat serving per day at the moment, because my iron levels are low, so am seeing what works for my body, I hate thinking of the slaughter of animals, but I feel equally guilty when I harvest vegetables that are growing innocently in the ground. All my other vitamins and minerals are fine, as I love fruit and veg, but go through stages of loving lollies, chips, soda and cakes, so have to wean myself from them to make them monthly treats rather than daily. I have noticed that to use my brain as a lawyer I HAVE to eat bread at lunch time. If I eat meat and veg or veg alone, I can’t think during the afternoon (it is like my brain is on life support). I guess this is related to the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

    Reply
    • It’s hard to wean the junk food! I’ve actually heard from quite a few sources that eating meat doesn’t necessarily raise your iron levels… although meat contains iron, it’s actually easier to absorb iron from leafy green vegetables, and combine with some sort of vitamin C (I use some fresh squeezed lemon). When I was pregnant, my iron levels dropped a little on the low side, and I took a liquid iron supplement (Floradix) as liquid supplements are also easier to absorb, and within a couple weeks, my iron stores were back up and all was good. I know what you mean about eating some grain during the day! I can’t function either if I don’t!

      Reply
    • While I respect your endeavour to see what works for your body , I just cannot help but laugh at at the comment ” feel equally guilty when I harvest vegetables that are growing innocently in the ground”… not sure if you are trolling but you cannot surely think that growing vegetables is on par with slitting the throat of a cow or pig ?

      Reply
  3. I remember mentioning to my husband (a former archaeologist) that there was this thing called the paleo diet and it was meant to imitate what palaeolithic people ate, and he interrupted me to say with a laugh…’you mean, like eat anything they could possibly find that didn’t kill them?’ I thought that was probably a pretty valid view of real paleo people’s diets 🙂

    On another note (and I hope I can find the article to post here later!), I read a great piece talking about the paleo diet from an evolutionary standpoint. In a nutshell it states that there was never an ‘ideal’ time in human history that we are still perfectly adapted to. Evolution didn’t finish in the palaeolithic era. It has continued through the agricultural revolution and continues now. So, it seems a bit simplistic perhaps to think that there was some perfect ‘diet’ we should all be eating based on what people were doing in the past. People have been adapting to eating different grains for ages… doesn’t mean some people won’t have problems digesting, but it also doesn’t mean that NO one can eat grains without health problems.

    I know it’s not directly connected to what your writing about here, but I also found it interesting reading about the evolution of adult milk drinking. Fascinating stuff! Again, it shows that we’re still changing and evolution isn’t a finished process!

    http://www.nature.com/news/archaeology-the-milk-revolution-1.13471

    Reply
    • Haha, I love what your husband said, it’s so true, they would have eaten anything (grains included). It’s like you filled in the missing points from my blog. Funny, after I published this post, I had the thought that I should have added something about how the diet is evolving through time and that there is no ‘ideal’ diet. And, what a fascinating article on milk! Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  4. cool, cheers Kate, for all your research & info shared here – yeah i’ve heard a pretty convincing interview on Cate Stillman’s yoga podcast with a paleo advocate (sounded well studied) & it did get me thinking a little……i love your points & yes I so reckon anyone that eats meat should kill it, with the GREATEST RESPECT & gratitude & using all the animal…I reckon you’re right about the wheat in nearly everything being modified to the point of being too excessive in gluten these days, it’s not the same thing our grandmothers were eating anyway, & the more whole foods we can eat, over processed, of course, the better.

    Reply
  5. Love this! Well argued, Kate. I get so annoyed with fad dieters always trying to “convert” me, and I feel like you’ve given me some ammo to defend myself next time!

    Reply
  6. Ahhhh, I always experience great relief when I read things like this, because all this Paleo stuff has me so sceptical that one of my eyebrows is almost hidden in my hair! I haven’t, however, had the time or brain power to write about it, so it’s nice to read someone else’s words that I could have written myself!

    Reply
  7. What an interesting post! I didn’t know much about this diet before but have heard it a lot in passing. I would never consider this diet either!!!

    Reply
  8. I agree with a lot of what you said, but I have to point out that Atkins did not die from his diet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Atkins_(nutritionist)#Death

    Reply
    • I know he didn’t actually die of his diet,,, but it is true that died of something heart related and it was presumed that his arteries were clogged…

      Reply
  9. I have started following the Paleo method as I understand it: DO eat vegetables , fruit, meat, nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners. Don’t eat grains, legumes, any processed food or artificial sweeteners. Makes sense to me and has helped me to get rid of some troubling symptoms. I honestly don’t see how it’s ‘ just like Atkins’ because it’s not protein heavy, at least not the way I’ve been introduced to it. I did find your comment about the design of our teeth something to think about but I also know there is nothing wrong with eating meat. Grain is not evil and I’ve never heard another Paleo follower say that. I just know that my body has more energy without it, specifically wheat. I guess there will be zealots in every crowd, but that doesn’t mean we all have to be. Thank you for your perspective.

    Reply
    • I know the ‘real’ way the paleo diet is supposed to be followed means that you’re only supposed to eat a small amount of meat. but, almost every paleo recipe I’ve come across has meat or eggs in it…

      Reply
  10. Thanks for a wonderful post! I’ve had the same skepticism about Paleo but like one of your other readers, I haven’t had the time/energy/mental fortitude to research and write about it.

    To Tricia P. (above): thank you for being a reasonable Paleo follower- I’m sure every non-Paleo person you know really appreciates it. Most of the people I know who are on Paleo ARE of the “grain is evil” mindset, and while I feel that everyone should eat what works for them personally, so I have no issues with their lifestyle, I wish they wouldn’t preach at me about what *I* choose to eat.

    Reply
  11. I follow the Paleo diet with the exception that I eat raw dairy. I personally love it. I love wheat, but once I stopped eating it, I did notice that I have a sensitivity to gluten. So, no more for me!

    Reply
  12. thank you!! I have recently heard of this way of eating and it had not set right with me either. I appreciate the research and comments.

    Reply
  13. I love wheat too [whispering!!! shhhhh!] ;);)

    Reply
  14. I’m a Paleo follower, purely because it completely cured my chronic eczema that I’d suffered with for 10 years. But Paleo for me, and all other Paleo followers I know involves a lot of fruit and veges, and a little meat. Not the other way round. You should check out this clip, it is well worth a look: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxIowaCity-Dr-Terry-Wahls-Min

    Reply
  15. I am a 5′ 5″ female vegetarian. I had PCOS and I used to weigh 84 kilos (at which point I stopped weighing myself). I lost 22 kilos just by eliminating wheat, rice and sugar from my diet and moderating beans intake. I follow the Rosedale diet. It is a high fat (70 – 80% of your diet) and moderate protein diet. Now I am free from PCOS and I have more energy than ever. I don’t count carbs or calories. I exercise only if I feel like it, just for the fun of it. I am slimmer than I was during my teenage years. I eat a ton of vegetables and a minimal amount of fruit. I cook with a lot of ghee, coconut oil and/or butter. I eat some yogurt, soy and cottage cheese. If I do indulge in grains occasionally, I stick to sprouted millet.

    Reply
  16. I am so surprised to hear you describe Paleo as “meat-based.” Perhaps we’re not doing it right at my house, but we eat about 2/3 fruits and veggies, then the rest is meats and fats (like nuts). That’s what I learned was the appropriate balance, but maybe others do it differently.

    Reply
    • I feel like 1/3 of the diet as meat is still a lot! I know you include other things like nuts in there… and I guess if you’re not eating grains, then you would want to eat something else, so probably add more meat to the diet. But… eating domesticated animals, is not the same way the paleo’s would have eaten. The whole thing the paloe diet bashes is the way that agriculture brought on disease.. but agriculture goes in hand in hand with domestication of animals… so was it eating the domesticated animals or the grains that really caused the disease??? REal paloes would have been getting lots of exercise and eating lean gamey meats.

      Reply

Share Your Thoughts