7 Mistakes Paleo lovers make that are harming their health
There's no arguing the Paleo diet has taken the world by storm and I'm far more in support of, than against this movement as it shares many of my nutritional philosophies - eating whole, unprocessed foods that are as close to nature as possible, and nothing our ancestors wouldn't recognise, as well as being gluten and dairy free and low in sugar. However I find many Paleo enthusiasts get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to some of the Paleo principles.
Here are seven of the most common mistakes I find people make when following a Paleo diet that can do more harm than good for their health.
1. They eat too much red meat - Many people on a Paleo diet see it as a licence to gorge on red meat, including processed meats like bacon, salami and ham which are artificially cured using carcinogenic chemicals known as nitrates. Meat is the densest of all protein sources making it the most difficult for your body to digest, unless it is slow cooked for at least 6 hrs. Red meat can definitely be incorporated into a healthy diet, as long as you don't eat too much, stick to clean sources like 100% grass fed beef and lamb, and slow cook the majority of your consumption. A recent study discovered a link between a particular sugar present in high quantities in red meat and the development of cancer due to the inflammatory immune response it can trigger, so it's important that you don't eat too much red meat and avoid eating the majority of your consumption cooked on an open flame. Furthermore many of us struggle to produce sufficient levels of hydrochloric acid within our stomach - the substance required to digest protein foods. So a combination of poor digestive function and excess consumption of red meat can do more harm than good, so be sure to get your digestive function ship shape as well as moderate your intake.
2. They mistake anything gluten-free as healthy - Just because its gluten free doesn't translate to healthy, as so often foods sprouting this label are loaded with sugar, even soy, artificial additives or vegetable oils! This is where getting back to basics comes into play - ALWAYS read your labels - and I'm talking about the one on the back, not the front, as this where you will find the truth about exactly what you're eating, but your diet should be based mainly on fresh vs packaged foods anyway.
3. They eat too much fat - Like meat, many Paleo lovers can also OD on too much fat, failing to understand the impact this can have on their digestive system - specifically their gall bladder. The gallbladder is the organ responsible for aiding fat digestion, through the release of a substance known as bile. Many people suffer from sub-optimal gall bladder function, in fact surgical removal of the gallbladder is one of the most common operations nowadays. This often results from poor diet impacting on the gallbladder function, eventually leading to the development of gallstones. If your body does not sufficiently digest and absorb dietary fats then a) you will not be accessing the nutritional benefits and b) the undigested fats will accumulate within your bloodstream, and depending which sources you tend to consume the most of - saturated animal fats, omega 6 sources from nuts and seeds and vegetable oils, or omega 3 from foods such as fish and eggs, these will leave you prone to chronic inflammation. So although HEALTHY fats play a critical role in maintaining good health, you need to ensure your body is able to adequately digest fats, in conjunction with consuming the right balance of saturated vs omega 6 and omega 3 fats.
4. They don't eat enough vegetables - We hear a lot about eating animal sources of protein and fats on a Paleo diet, but the humble vegetable can often be left behind when they should form the bulk of your diet. Vegetables are a rich source of fibre, not to mention contain vital phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Vegetables are an essential part of any diet and are one of our best defences in preventing chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and mental health problems. Be sure to include a decent serve of vegetables and salad greens with each meal, and a moderate amount of starchy vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato for a little more sustenance when needed.
5. They overdo the nuts - Nuts are a fantastic healthy snack, or addition to salads or baking, however I see so many Paleo recipes packed with nuts and nut flours which can push your nut intake waaaay overboard. Say a typical day for a Paleo lover includes a Paleo muesli for breakfast - based on nuts and seeds, a couple of Paleo snacks containing nuts, then adding a serve to your salad for some extra crunch, and making up a smoothie on nut milk - you could well be going a little nuts about nuts! Many of us can relate to sitting at our desk or in front of the TV with the nut jar snacking away on these moorish morsels, but most nut varieties contain high ratios of Omega 6 compared to Omega 3 essential fatty acids, which is not good for combating inflammation – so be sure to keep your nut intake to around a handful each day and preferably soak and or activate them to reduce some of the phytic acid levels - substances that block the absorption of essential minerals like zinc, magnesium, iodine, and potassium. Adding a little nut milk to your tea or smoothie is ok, just keep an eye on your overall daily intake.
6. They don't look after their digestive system - Following a Paleo diet is not an automatic guarantee you'll be optimally healthy, because like any diet, the food you consume is only as healthy for you as your body's ability to digest and absorb it. Being particularly high in animal sources of protein and fat, especially saturated sources, the Paleo diet can place added stress on the digestive system if animal sources of protein and fat are consumed in disproportion to plant based foods. Good Gut health is crucial for optimal health and wellbeing, so ensuring you have a well functioning digestive system is essential if you want to get the most nutrition from your food. This is why I start all my patients on my complete gut repair and liver detox program.
7. They forget about portion control - Many people think going on a Paleo diet is a licence to eat as much as they want because they are eating healthy, unprocessed foods. Well I'm sorry folks but too much of anything, even healthy foods can tip the balance, whether it's the function of your digestive system or eating too much in general, causing your body to store the excess calories as fat. I recommend eating until you feel around 80% full and make dinner your smallest rather than your largest meal.
To learn how to get the balance right, and how to use food as medicine to restore your health and vitality, try out my program in my book Love Your Gut, and discover the 8 essential foods to avoid for reaching your full health potential, including delicious recipes, a 4 step program to heal your gut, meal plans, grocery shopping list to fix your gut.
All Rights Reserved Sally Joseph copyright 2015