Busting those Paleo myths
Here are some common misconceptions: Paleo is all about meat, meat and more meat. Paleo is a ‘no carb’ diet. Paleo is only affordable for rich people. Paleo will make you constipated. All that saturated animal fat will give you heart disease. Paleo is too restrictive and just a fad diet. These are a few of the criticisms I have come across in my research. They cause confusion and influence people to make uninformed decisions about their health. If you are interested in the truth, then carry on reading.
Paleo is all about meat
Paleo is about eating real, unprocessed, nutrient dense food as close to its natural state as possible. The lifestyle promotes eating a balanced diet of vegetables, animal protein, fruit and healthy fats. You should eat enough protein to satisfy your body’s demands – that’s it, no more, no less. This means that you probably wouldn’t eat any more meat than you currently are. If you are particularly carnivorous and fond of your braais, you might currently be over-eating protein. Remember, your body can only metabolize a certain amount of protein at a time, the rest will be converted to glucose and stored as fat.
Paleo is unaffordable
Paleo does focus quite a bit on quality, i..e trying to buy the best quality your pocket can afford. Grass-fed, pastured meat and truly free-range poultry and eggs are far better for you than animals fattened on grains and fed antibiotics because of the squalid conditions in which they are kept.
Organic veg and fruit are more superior in nutrient value than standard produce (and one can also avoid all those nasty pesticides too). Like with anything in life you do have to pay extra for quality. This is where one can get creative to make it work for your wallet.
Plant a veggie garden of your own, buy meat, chicken and eggs directly from an ethical farmer and bypass the middleman. Keep your own chickens and buy nuts and coconut milk in bulk when things are on sale. Yes bread, beans and rice are cheaper but I prefer to subscribe to the philosophy, “pay for quality food now and avoid paying the doctor later.” You also won’t be buying convenience, processed foods anymore, which will save you money.
Paleo is ‘no carb’ and therefore too restrictive and unbalanced
I can only assume that this particular comment is born out of ignorance of basic food composition and what one actually eats on a Paleo diet. Fresh vegetables are critical to a Paleo diet and large quantities of green, leafy veggies are encouraged. These veggies are full of fibre, so no worries about getting constipated …… and guess what, they contain carbs. Low sugar fruits like berries are recommended, and you know what, they contain carbs. Nuts are considered a healthy snack. Yip, they contain carbs too.
So how anyone can state that a Paelo diet is a “no carb” diet is completely beyond me. Paleo doesn’t even have to be “low carb”. If you are at a healthy weight and are active with no blood sugar issues, there is no reason you can’t eat the starchier veg like butternut, sweet potatoes and carrots as well as more varied fruit options. If you have some weight to lose, then a lower carb Paleo diet might be better suited for your needs.
Yes, grains and legumes are a no-no, but that is because they contain anti-nutrients and inflammatory compounds which can damage your gut and lead to health issues like allergies and auto-immune diseases. Grains are not required for a healthy diet and do more harm than good. So why include them?
Paleo will give you heart disease
No, it will not! The lipid hypothesis which states that saturated fat causes heart disease was debunked a few years ago. It’s just not worth wasting any more energy debating this one. There might be a settling down phase of 3 to 6 months but tryglycerides do come down (often quite dramatically) and good HDL cholesterol goes up, which reduces your risk for heart disease. Inflammation, is the real cause of heart disease and Paleo is an anti-inflammatory diet due to the to exclusion of highly inflammatory foods (the worst of which is toxic sugar).
Paleo is just a fad diet
Say what? Paleo is the oldest diet in the history of the world! For 2.5 million years our ancestors thrived on a Paleo diet. Their brains grew larger, they grew taller and stronger and they survived the harshest of conditions. They also didn’t suffer from any of the modern lifestyle diseases that have become an epidemic in our modern world. No cancer, no diabetes, no Alzheimer’s. It is only since the cultivation of grains and more recently GMO crops as well as highly processed food that the health of our species has nose-dived at an alarming rate.
My last 2 cents worth…..
All a Paleo diet advocates is getting back to the basics of ancestral health were we thrived as a species. I ask you with tears in my eyes – how can anyone say that a nutrient-dense diet of plant-based foods, some quality animal protein and good quantities of healthy fats be considered a fad or an unbalanced diet?
Yes, you will have to give up processed foods such as sugary breakfast cereals, microwave meals packed with preservatives and toxic vegetable oils. Yes you will need to cut out the fizzy soft drinks full of chemicals, sugar (or even worse artificial sweeteners). Yes, you can’t tuck into steaming bowls of gluten-filled pasta anymore (which probably bloats your stomach, if you are really honest with yourself).
But me, and thousands of others feel that this is a small sacrifice to make for improved health, higher energy levels, better concentration, glowing skin, fewer dental cavities and a stronger immune system. And one of my favorites – you will look younger than your actual years due to the anti-inflammatory nature of the diet which causes less oxidative stress on your cells.
There is real wisdom in that age-old saying, “don’t knock it until you have tried it”.