Is The Paleo Diet Dangerous?
I receive many emails from readers asking me what I think about the Paleo diet, and the short answer is 'I concur' on the majority of their principles anyway - especially considering they are largely aligned with those in my eating program Eat Yourself Healthy . In fact I wrote this program over 11 yrs ago - long before I had even heard the word 'Paleo'. The main point of difference my program offers, is about how to heal your gut, so you can actually reap the nutritional benefits of your food. I also do not believe the Paleo diet should be a licence to scoff as much red meat and fat as you can stuff into you - as some Paleo advocates tend to - not only because meat is the most difficult food for the human body to digest, but also because 14 years of clinical testing, revealed the majority of my patients struggled to produce sufficient levels of hydrochloric acid - the substance produced in the stomach to break down protein foods like red and white meat, and effectively digest fats - hence one of the reasons I recommend you heal your gut and digestive function, to ensure you are digesting and absorbing your food optimally. I am also more relaxed about including some legumes and lentils, IF they are tolerated by your gut, because for some they can trigger gas and bloating - a sign they need to avoided.
But a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald , quoting certain Dieticians views on the Paleo diet, left me astounded at the lengths people will go to poo poo what is essentially about simple, healthy, whole food eating. The article was shrouded in fear and over dramatisation, with claims "the country’s leading nutrition body warned Australians that the popular eating plan is potentially dangerous"! Dangerous? Eating fresh, unprocessed foods in their closest form to nature, including lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, fruit, non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds, is dangerous?! Well if thats a 'dangerous' diet, then its back to the coco pops and pop tarts for me! Not that I ever ate coco pops or pop tarts, but nothing infuriates me more when the media make a beat up about something and lace it in fear, and smother it with extreme, uneducated claims, all in the name of creating a news headline! And that's exactly what this news report on the Paleo diet is - an unbalanced beat up!
As for the chief executive of the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), claim that there is 'no scientific evidence to support eating the Paleo way' - personally I believe in evidence based medicine and if the physical evidence of healthy weight loss, better energy and brain function, is not enough 'evidence' to prove eating lots of green leafy vegetables, lean meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, some fruit, non-starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds is a healthy diet, then I'll eat my hat!
The part I really loved was the DAA's claim that 'many people dropped out of the studies (eating foods advocated by the Paleo diet), claiming the diet was difficult to follow" ....... wow! If thats what you call a 'difficult ' eating regime, then perhaps the participants need to stop hitting the microwave and packaged foods, because ok, I'll admit preparing home cooked meals from scratch is admittedly more 'difficult' than opening the box of McCains pizza and chucking it in the microwave for 30 seconds.....but what's really difficult is feeling like crap, and being so tired you can't exercise, or take care of your kids properly, or ending up in a hospital ward for countless rounds of chemo because it was all too 'difficult' to eat clean whole foods.
As for the DAA's 'concerns that the Paleo diet excludes whole food groups' - I too recommend avoiding foods that the human digestive system has not evolved to handle - such as gluten, processed cow's dairy and mounds of sugar - and I, along with the thousands of patients I've prescribed this sort of eating regime to, have experienced the benefits - weight loss, more energy, regular bowel movements and a happier, clearer mind. Not sure what's so 'concerning' about that?
But the statement I really loved from the DAA was that "Paleo advocates avoiding conventionally raised meats, non-organic produce and genetically modified and processed foods,” ummmmm.....yer that would be for good reason, because last I checked, ingesting chemicals and hormones wasn't so good for your health......
As for becoming familiar with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Australia, I know that if I for one ate that amount of grains and all that cow's dairy I'd most certainly pack on the pounds AND undoubtedly still suffer from an active autoimmune disease.
But I will agree with the DAA's statement - that eating a high content of red meat can cause bowel cancer - primarily because so many of us do not digest it adequately and or we cook it the wrong way. If you are a meat eater - I recommend eating slow cooked, 100% grass fed meat ( you can read why here ), 1 - 3 x's per week maximum, after you have got your digestion on track, along with around 2 - 3 serves of organic chicken and of course a few serves of wild fresh fish.
And lastly, to clarify the inaccurate claim that the Paleo diet involves 'cutting out carbohydrates' - nudda - not true - but rather it does advocate cutting out grains and high sugar, processed forms of carbohydrates, as do I. We can get all the glucose and fibre our body requires to function optimally from eating loads of green leafy veges, a couple of pieces of fruit a day and a few starchy veges, like pumpkin or sweet potato, or a little quinoa, or a small serve of legumes - ALL of which are carbohydrates last time I checked and no we don't need grains to be an essential part of our diet to be optimally healthy.
That's it from me on the soap box today....I hope this clears the confusion.....
Remember you can access my 'whole eating' program to re-calibrate your hormones, switch off inflammation and banish the bloat and gas, as well as lose weight in my book Love Your Gut. Even if you are following Paleo, it will take your gut and digestive function to the next level.
© All Rights Reserved Sally Joseph 2014