Do you find the paleo diet confusing?
So many people just don’t know what they should and shouldn’t be eating on a Paleo diet.
- Is the Paleo diet low-carb or low-fat? Is saturated fat permitted?
- How much protein should someone eat on a Paleo diet?
- Does the Paleo diet include dairy products – or not? Which kinds of dairy?
- Are any grains permitted?
These questions and the varied answers one can find on the internet or in books cause confusion for many of us. I have just finished reading a very interesting article by Dr. Chris Kresser titled, “Moving from a paleo diet to a paleo template”. It really made sense to me. Here are some of his and my own ideas around this concept.
Depending on which “guru” you follow, the Paleo diet can have a number of different variations. From strictly no grains or dairy to the more permissive guys that allow a bit of dairy, rice and buckwheat in moderation. Some say Paleo is high in fat and low in carbs. Others will say that more moderate carbs from starchy vegetables and tubers is fine.
So what are we to do? Whose advice should we follow? Chris Kresser suggests that we stop trying to define the Paleo diet and rather adopt a Paleo “template” approach.
A template contains a set of general guidelines that can then be customised based on the unique needs and experience of each person. A template encourages people to think, experiment and consider his or her specific circumstances.
What are the generally accepted guidelines for a Paleo/Primal diet?
- Don’t eat toxins: Avoid seed/vegetable oils, cereal grains, legumes and excess sugar (especially fructose)
- Nourish your body: Eat healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocados, nuts and olive oil, oily fish and saturated fat from meat, favour glucose/starch over fructose, and favour animal protein and seafood over poultry
- Eat real food: Avoid processed, refined and packaged food. Eat fresh, whole foods (grass-fed, free-range and organic where possible) – quality does matter.
……. and as for the “grey areas” such as dairy, nightshade veg (e.g. tomatoes and aubergines), eggs, caffeine, alcohol and carbs?
Well, the only way to figure out what works well for you is to experiment and observe. The best way to do that is to remove the foods you suspect you might have trouble with for around 30 days and then add them back in one at a time and observe your reactions.
For people who suffer from an autoimmune disease, dairy products, nightshades and eggs may be problematic. Eating fewer carbs and avoiding alcohol could help those wanting to lose weight and control their blood sugar. Top athletes may feel better with a higher carb intake from starchy veg and tubers. Avoiding caffeine could help those people who sleep poorly at night. For others, avoiding all grains may clear up an irritable bowel or acne.
So, in a nutshell – stop wasting your time and energy in trying to define what a Paleo diet is or isn’t because the question is practically impossible to answer. If the basic guidelines listed above make logical sense to you and you are willing to give it a try in your pursuit of optimal health – then one of the most important aspects of your journey is to discover what version of the paleo/primal diet will work best for YOU?
Personally, I find that a small bit of dairy doesn’t have any adverse effects but the moment I eat too much fruit or alcohol I put on weight. I can drink coffee during the day but stick to Rooibos tea at night otherwise I don’t sleep. A diet drink with artificial sweeteners will make me crave sweet stuff soon after drinking it, so I have started to avoid them completely. I feel comfortable including sushi with a small amount of rice once or twice a month as the rice will only make me feel tired but doesn’t upset my stomach too much. Bread and pasta bloat my stomach so I avoid them.
At the moment my weight-loss has stalled, so I am going to have to experiment and observe further to get to the bottom of it. Will increasing the fat in my diet and dropping the carbs even lower help? Are my portion sizes still too big? Is my protein intake too high? Is the 80/20 principle working for me or do I have to be stricter?
For the first time in my life I feel like I am in control. I can decide. I have the basic tools to make sure my diet is a healthy one but it is not a “cookie cutter” approach. I am unique and so are you.
Don’t you just love this “Paleo template” idea?
Reference: Moving from a paleo diet to a paleo template by Chris Kresser.