Paleo Diet Between the Hype

Paleo Diet: Between the Hype and How Effective It Is

Paleo diet huh?  I could see the thinly veiled mockery coming from a mile away. When a diet becomes a buzzword on the streets of LA, you better be prepared to defend your credibility if you blog about it, especially if you blog on medical conditions and diseases. Among the grenades of surly hipster commentary being lobbed my way:

  1. Paleo is just a natural candidate for “diet of the month” since Vegan’s star power is subsiding, and trendy can’t be healthy
  2. Hardcore Paleo advocates have a cult-like Holier Than Thou air about them

What do these 2 share?  A lack of concern for “Why Paleo.”  I would begin to ask if they know about the scientific basis for Paleo, when they one up me with a link to a Paleo blog that instagram-ed baked goods looking like a Susiecakes magazine spread. Preemptive touché, friend.

As I started to respond with yet another scientific argument for Paleo that my friends will never remember (and surely be told a week later “But bacon is so different from the rest of what you’re eating,” and be forced to slap my forehead for the 12th time), I realized we were getting nowhere.  The non-scientific crowd (most of us) required a different, less sentimental, less academic approach.

Can Trendy Be Healthy?

Paleo resultsYes and yes.  For example, as much as I wanted to tear down these instagram-ed Paleo blogs for Perez Hilton-ing Paleo into something salacious, I couldn’t. I actually think a bacon and coconut flour cupcake is super healthy as long as it’s not in Sepia. Stevia is all good though.  You’ll have difficulty finding Paleo experts that don’t sing the praises of bacon (saturated fat is good!) and coconut is just about as wonderful a source of food as you can find with tons of monounsaturated fats, a good o3/o6 ratio, and medium chain triglycerides (a natural source of energy), fiber.  The other so-called-sin of Chocolate is also well within Paleo confines when it’s dark chocolate: good fats and very low sugar.   It’s also full of antioxidants to boot, if you care about that sort of thing.   A little stevia, xylitol, lo han guo goes a long way, although xylitol gives some people gut issues.   What else do you need to make a great cupcake, besides lotsa love?

I used to see a lot of Paleo recipes that used nut flours, but now that coconut flour is readily available for baking, many popular are really Paleo.  The fact that the instagram generation can turn Paleo ingredients into picturesque foodgasms that look like like normal cupcake shouldn’t incur wrath.  It should make us feel better about lusting after healthy food!

Are they opportunists by baking and instagram-ing Paleo cupcakes because they’re trendy?   Who cares!  If the end result is better health, I’ll gladly make room on this bandwagon for shameless promoters.

Why So Hardcore?

To be honest, I never wanted to become “Hardcore Paleo” (aka believer in this as a superior diet) but that card was handed to me.

For 3 years before Paleo, I ate brown rice, legumes, veggies, and meats, without fail and 100% organic. (For most pro athletes, this is a diet that lengthens careers by years.)   Then came a bout of unrelenting insomnia from eating almond yogurt, followed by swift recovery after I stopped inhalaling this addictive white stuff.  My a-ha moment.

The almond yogurt that changed everything

Then came

The hypothesis: I have an autoimmune disease, and my immune system may have been attacking these “healthy” foods for years, causing symptoms that I just wrote off as “part of illness.”  Specifically, antinutrients in normally-healthy foods like almonds.

The experiment: Go 100% Paleo.  A properly done N=1 experiment can do wonders for your knowledge.

The result:  (Trust me when I say the “Before” is utterly uninspiring, to be kind to myself)

During the last month, my indigestion and gut fermentation improved, while my body composition completely changed. My body is burning fat for energy now, and I also have more energy. I get far less insulin spikes, and don’t feel sapped from eating.  Amazingly, I used to be in the gym 5x/week before I got sick, and couldn’t get the abs I have now from doing zero ab exercises while eating like this.  Belly fat was always my archnemesis, and here it was melting away without a single crunch.

Almond you changed everythingHere’s literally what I eat every day:

  • Breakfast: Bacon, avocado, bulletproof coffee (coffee + coconut oil + ghee)
  • Lunch: Salmon, avocado, decaf bulletproof coffee, apple
  • Dinner: Beef or bison, avocado, leafy greens, apple, occasional sweet potato

In my case, these clear health gains pushed me down the slippery slope of Hardcore Paleo boulevard.  My decision to go hardcore had nothing to do with my belief in eating “whatever cavemen ate.”  There are simply too many holes with that argument which don’t account for evolution, epigenetics and genetic diversity.  It had nothing to do with the scores of written Paleo pieces, research studies, or Paleo podcasts I pored over.  Instead, seeing (and feeling) made me a hardcore believer and join the preachers at the pulpit.

Paleo diet and Its History

paleo diet between the hype

The Paleo diet belongs to the pre-agricultural period when civilization was not developed and was in its very preliminary phase of life. The hunter-gatherer’s ancestors used to collect food from trees, grass-fed animals, fish from the water, nuts, and seeds. As, all these foods used to be collected through hunting or gathering so the Paleo diet or Paleolithic diet is also known as the Hunter-gatherer diet, Caveman diet, and Stone Age diet.

In the past few decades, the Paleo diet plan has gained immense popularity in the western world and its versatile benefits are becoming a hype and making places in the heart of people around the world. However, before incorporating the paleo diet between the hype with the expectation that it will do a miracle for improving your health concerns in a drastic way it’s better that you go through the below discussion which entails about each and every necessary aspect regarding this diet plan.

What is Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet aims to include all the foods that used to be eaten by our ancestors that they collect through hunting or gathering process. This diet restricts the consumption of all foods that are popular through the farming process such as grains (wheat, barley, and oats), dairy products, legumes, potatoes, salt, refined sugars, and processed foods.

It restricts food that became popular with farming, including grains, such as wheat, oats and barley, legumes, dairy products, refined sugars, salt, processed foods, and potatoes.

The Paleo diet runs on the assumption that there is a big genetic gap between the human body and modern farming diets. With the invention of new farming techniques, a massive change is seen in what people used to eat during the stone-age or old civilization period to the current era.

Foods that are changed immensely with respect to nutrient value with the emergence of farming include grains, legumes, and dairy products. This is the reason why the paleo disallowed to include these diets in the meal to a person who wants to incorporate 100% paleo in their daily life routine.

As per the Paleo diet belief human bodies has not adapted this massive change in the diet and this mismatch issue that exists between the human body and diet is the leading cause of the existence of different health issues which are increasing in number and severity year by year.

Diabetics Should be Careful about the Paleo Diet Hype

There are lots of hypes regarding the benefits of adopting the paleo diet for type 2 diabetes patients. However, this should not be followed blindly as because – the Australian Diabetes Society president says about this that people with type 2 diabetes must be wary of social media hype regarding the benefits of choosing paleo diet as there are no trials done beyond 12 weeks time for this on the type 2 diabetes patients.

Only two trials have been done worldwide with type 2 diabetes sufferers who were on paleo diet said the Andrikopoulos, a researcher at the University of Melbourne Department of Medicine, at the Austin Hospital. He emphasized on taking advice from the registered dietitians and diabetes organizations regarding the best diet plan suggestion for the type 2 diabetes patients.

In both the studies less than 20 participants were included for the trials and one had no control diets. As this study lasted only for 12 weeks or even less so it is not enough to come to any conclusion regarding the effect of this diet on the participant’s weight or glycemic level control.

Lots of websites you can find on the internet sharing the testimonials of patients who claim the benefits of using the paleo diet also known as the caveman diet, hunter-gatherer diet and Stone Age diet for their diabetes-related health problems.

This diet plan recommends avoiding the consumption of some foods such as cereals, grains, legumes, dairy, and refined sugars. Instead of these foods, it emphasizes the consumption of wild-caught fish, grass-fed animal’s meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and only healthy saturated fat.

As per the Andrikopoulos (researcher at the University of Melbourne Department of Medicine), most of the paleo diet plan emphasizes avoiding the intake of refined sugars and processed foods which no doubt is consistent with the common dietary guidelines worldwide. However when someone starts cutting the dairy and whole grains from their diet abiding the guideline of the paleo diet then they restrain from vital sources of calcium and fiber necessary for a healthy body.

He added that people with diabetes benefited most from regular exercise and the Mediterranean diet—olive oil, fats from fish, legumes and low in refined sugar. However, if you are already obese or overweight or leading a sedentary lifestyle then avoid taking a high-fat diet especially if you are already diagnosed with diabetes health issues as this can prove dangerous in your condition.

How the Paleo Diet Works

The paleo diet or Paleolithic diet plan includes fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The supporters of this diet insist to choose only low-glycemic fruits and vegetables. However, this diet is not free of conflicts in its different aspects. There are debates on certain aspects of Paleo in order to prove its effectiveness in current time like the foods that really existed at the old-time, diet variations depending upon region such as tropical vs. arctic, nutrient essence existing in current time fruits and vegetables with comparison to prehistoric wild ones, and the major conflict among the paleo diet proponents is regarding what should be included or excluded from this diet. Due to all these conflicts, there is no single True Paleo diet.

One of the common examples of diet-related conflicts is regarding white potatoes. Though the white potato is included in the list of diets present in the Paleolithic era but this is excluded from the paleo diet as it has a high glycemic index. Similarly, though processed foods are generally excluded from the paleo diet but some of the paleo diets emphasize eating frozen fruits and vegetables with the perception that the freezing process preserves most of the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables.

As per the nutrient content of this diet is concerned it is high in protein, low moderate in carbohydrate (with restriction of high glycemic index carbohydrates), moderate in fat (primarily from the unsaturated fats), high in fiber and very low in refined sugars and sodium. Marine fishes, olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds are the sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats containing omega 3 fats EPA and DHA.

Another highlighted paleo diet is grass-fed beef as a reliable source of omega 3 fats over the conventional beef. However, in reality, it contains a very low level of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) with comparison to marine fish which is the most ideal and perfect source of omega-3 fatty acids a good fat for humans overall health improvement. For example per 3 ounces of cooked salmon fish contains 1000 to 2000 mg of EPA/DHA whereas a similar amount of grass-fed beef contains only 20-200 mg of ALA which is extremely low with comparison to the marine source of this healthy fat.

Foods Permitted and Restricted Under Paleo

  • Foods Permitted- Foods that are permitted under the paleo diet include shellfish, fish, lean meats, eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, olive oil, and little amount of honey. In a moderate amount, some root vegetables are also permitted in this diet plan which includes cassava and sweet potatoes due to their high nutrient value.
  • Foods Restricted- Foods that are restricted or not allowed in this diet plan include cereals, whole grains, dairy products, refined grains, sugars, coffee, alcohol, salt, refined vegetable oils (such as canola), several processed foods, legumes such as beans, peanuts, and lentils.

In this diet plan portion sizes and calorie counting are not prioritized.

Expected Benefits of Following Paleo Diet

Incorporating the paleo diet may feel tough because of extreme level restriction on the diet which we generally consume on a regular basis. However, this is really beneficial for health especially cutting highly processed foods and carbohydrates rich meals can benefit people who are already struggling with different health concerns. Moreover, it can protect your health against the risk of major health problems such as rapid weight gain, cardiovascular health issues, and diabetes whose growth risk increases by the dual-rate in people who live a sedentary lifestyle and consume more carb-rich foods and processed meals.

Yes, initially it is very difficult to follow as paleo diet excludes almost all food groups but this could be a healthy replacement for the typical American diets which emphasize on more sugary foods, grain-based foods, oils, and highly processed fats. So by going paleo, you can ensure rapid weight loss which is really great news for those who are obese or suffering from certain excessive weight-associated health issues. By cutting the consumption of processed foods and its empty calories which mainly comes from sweets, butter, sugary drinks, potato, and cookies you can lose weight until you reach your desired level of body weight.

However as per one study report published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition the paleo diet approach is not so impressive with comparison to other diet plans when its benefits rate evaluated in terms of blood pressure level improvement in people who were also dealing with some other health issues such as triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, metabolic syndrome. This is because in such health conditions fats are found in the blood hence in such cases the risk of heart attack and stroke remains which are life-threatening conditions.

Risk Factors Associated With the Paleo Diet

Cutting out the whole food groups from daily diet routines may lead you to many vital nutrient deficiencies. Though this sacrifice is beneficial in terms of the weight loss goal as it can stimulate your other efforts effectiveness at a much faster speed but ultimately when your body gets deprived of essential nutrients then your risk of developing other health problems increases.

This is the reason why some diet experts do not recommend this diet as eliminating dairy foods which is one of its food restriction may lead your body with two most essential nutrient deprive needed for your healthy bone sustenance such as calcium and vitamin D. As milk and other dairy product are the most ideal dietary sources of these nutrients so cutting its intake from your daily meal can pay you off with major health problems like fragile bone, osteoporosis, and rickets.

Another risk factor associated with the paleo diet is the risk of different heart health-related problems. This is because the paleo diet focuses more on the consumption of meat instead of plant-based foods. So experts say that if anyone following the paleo diet does not remain careful about the type of protein they are consuming may end up with different heart health risks. For example, red meat is high in saturated fats so its excess consumption can raise your blood cholesterol levels which is the root cause of different cardiovascular health concerns.

Similarly, the findings suggest that the paleo diet can help people with type 2 diabetes conditions but these findings are based on very limited researches basis. So before incorporating this diet plan, a diabetic should first consult with their doctor. This is because the drastic reduction in the carb foods is harmful to these people especially for them who are on insulin. It may lead to a sudden fall in your blood sugar levels if such changes are done without making necessary changes in the medication.

There are main online websites who even claim the effectiveness of the paleo diet in the treatment of autoimmune health conditions. However, it should not be trusted blindly as it needs more research to confirm what role actually played by this diet plan in the treatment of diseases like celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Conclusion

No one can convince anyone else with any sense that one diet is best for them based on research studies (unless they’re double-blind clinical trials — unlikely to happen!)  We tried with the D’Adamo blood type diet, but that ended up being mostly panned unless you’re an O type, which just took you back to Paleo anyway.  These are only suggestions.  The buck stops with ourselves.  Despite how advanced science and medicine have become, to me the most convincing evidence is still the most primitive: how do you feel and what do you see?

Consider trying out this diet for yourself before knocking it. Forget the fact that it’s trendy for a second. Cover your eyes when you drive by the hippie restaurant around the corner is selling you a “Paleo steak and egg hash” for $25.  Cover your ears when someone like me gets on the Paleo Pulpit and cut our inferiority complexes some slack for wanting to look taller and get heard.  Know this: several female lawyers at a top litigations law firm in LA are paying thousands to to eat a strict diet of avocado or cottage cheese with bacon and get Fabio to guide them through resistance training for 20 minutes a day, and I hear they’re all getting ripped.  It’s your lucky day because I’m gonna give you these big-buck instructions for free. Ready?

  1. Eat meats, fats, and limit to 100g of carbs a day.
  2. Fill in the blanks with fats until full
  3. Lift weights and perspire like the love of your life just asked “Why should I date you?”
  4. Rinse & repeat for 30 days.

Find out for yourself if Paleo is up to snuff, worth the hype, too hardcore, or just right for you.  Or keep on snickering, it’s up to you!

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