Saturday, September 7, 2013



The 'Paleo Diet', also (unfortunately) known as the 'Caveman Diet', is not a single diet prescription. It is not a rapid weight-loss diet, a fad diet. I posit that it isn't a diet at all. 

Rather, I see Paleo as a template that enables optimal nutrition for human beings by focusing on real foods that humans have thrived on as a species for millions of years and avoiding modern foods that make us fat and sick. 

Since we've been eating plants and animals for 2.5 millions years it's probably safe to assume that they are healthy for us - especially when consumed as close to their wild or natural state as possible. It's also probably safe to assume that Red Bull, Margarine and bagels are not particularly well handled by our system and are more harmful than beneficial.


I don't believe that people are fat, sick and miserable because they are inherently lazy or greedy. I believe we are like this because our industrialized food system has gone down a devastating path of proliferating cheap, unhealthy nutrient-poor, grain-based calories that are not only harmful but are very addictive. 

Almost 90 percent of the average American's diet comes from processed food, refined oils, processed meats and grains, leaving 10 percent or less from vegetables and fruits (Cross, 2010). The Paleo diet flips this broken model on it's head. 

Average American Diet is 60% processed foods, 30% (processed) animal products and only 5% fruits and vegetables - according to Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.

Here is The Paleo Model's definitive guide to eating Paleo:

WHAT TO EAT [And frequency]
  • Real, whole foods - both animal and plant products - that are high in nutrients and low in toxins [Always]
  • Raw or lightly cooked non-starchy vegetables - especially leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage), roots (carrots, parsnips), tubers (sweet potato, yams, taro) and bulbs (onions, garlic) - preferably organic, local and in season [At almost every meal]
  • Wild caught seafood preferably from cold water fish that eat algae or other small fish - e.g. sardines, mackerel, salmon (NOT FARMED), white fish and tuna but not too many predatory fish. [Most days]
  • Wild or grass-fed/pasture-raised ruminant animals (animals that eat grass), pork, poultry [Often but not necessarily every day]
  • Pastured whole eggs from healthy free roaming chickens but not from caged, soy/corn-fed sick animals [I eat about two per day]
  • Additional naturally occurring fats (including saturated fat) predominantly from coconut products (raw virgin coconut oil, MCT oil, coconut cream/milk), grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, lard, bacon fat and cocoa nibs/powder/dark chocolate [Every day].
  • Some fruit, predominantly berries or other low-fructose fruit but not dried fruit [no more than 1-2 serves per day]
  • Some nuts, preferably those with lower omega-6 content such as macadamia. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts and cashews are fairly healthy varieties. All nuts are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats so should be eaten sparingly [Not as a staple]
  • Starch from vegetables (sweet potato, yams, plantains, pumpkin, squash) or even white rice [when highly active or when more carbs are needed, but not every day].
  • Probiotic/fermented foods including kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or even full fat yoghurt if tolerated and preferably from raw milk. [Several times per week]
  • Some other raw or grass-fed dairy such as hard cheese or sour cream if tolerated [Not as a staple]
  • Seaweed or other sea vegetables for iodine [where possible]
  • Organ meats - especially liver - and bone broth [where possible]



WHAT NOT TO EAT
  • Processed foods - you know, all the crap that comes in boxes or shiny packages / gets advertised on TV / is on the internal shelves of the supermarket / is sold in a fast food restaurant, convenience store / suspiciously doesn't go mouldy - including pretty much any food product with multiple ingredients or ingredients that you can't picture growing in/on the ground like butylated hydroxyanisole. WTF!?
  • Refined fats from vegetable and seed oils including "heart healthy" sunflower, safflower, soy, corn, canola and especially hydrogenated margarines and trans fats. (If ants won't touch it nor should you!)
  • Nutrient-poor carbohydrates from all GRAINS (wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, sorghum, oats, corn, rice, as well as cous cous and quinoa).
  • Refined sugar in any form - including sucrose (table sugar), fructose (high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, agave) or even honey unless it's a very occasional treat. 
  • Artificial sweeteners. Real food is sweet enough when you stop eating processed foods.
  • Most pasteurized dairy, especially milk and low-fat milk products, with the exception of grass-fed butter or cream or raw milk products for those who can tolerate it and find it!
  • Conventional/feed-lot/factory meat including corn/soy-fed cows, chickens, pigs and especially processed conventional meats such as salami, pepperoni, boloney etc. 
  • All LEGUMES (beans, peas, lentils and peanuts) and especially SOY and all soy products including soy milk, tofu, tempeh with the exception of perhaps miso and gluten-free soy sauce. 
  • Fruit juice. Eat the whole damn fruit or not at all! The jury is still out on 'green smoothies' for me, especially if you're adding a whole apple or other sources of fructose such as five carrots. The vitamins from green vegetables such as kale or spinach are better absorbed when lightly cooked and eaten with fat. 
  • Too much omega-6 (linoleic acid) from the fat in poultry or from nuts and nut flours. I think this is a common mistake of many well-intentioned Paleo-ers. Eating a whole chicken (which I used to do) or baking a cake with 300g of almond flour is effectively like drinking half a cup of vegetable oil - highly pro-inflammatory. 
  • All drinks that contain calories except for unsweetened coffee or tea [daily] or coconut water, kombucha, red wine, tequila or vodka straight or with soda water and fresh lime [occasionally]. No beer sorry. The blood of a young sacrificial lamb is totally Paleo. Just kidding. We love animals... They are delicious. 


WHAT TO CONSIDER SUPPLEMENTING

I'm not a huge believer in supplementation with the following exceptions:
  • Iodized salt if seaweed or other sea vegetables are not a part of your regular diet
  • vitamin D if you live at an extreme latitude and cannot get enough naturally from the sun. Australians and even New Yorkers are probably fine given some sun exposure throughout the year.
  • Magnesium, especially at night to assist sleep (and constipation). I take 5-10g of Natural Calm powder in water 30 minutes before bed
  • 1-4g of EPA and DHA from Fish Oil, especially if not eating enough oily fish
  • Perhaps a probiotic supplement - especially to help repopulate good gut bacteria after a course of antibiotics
  • A top quality grass-fed, cold processed whey protein - especially if training hard and/or on rare occasions where eating real food is not practicable. 
  • Milk Thistle seed extract for liver function - especially if consuming too much alcohol


LIFESTYLE CHOICES

Just because you adopt a Paleo diet doesn't mean you have to give up your worldly possessions, build yourself a mud-floor hut and hunt wild kangaroo in the outback of Australia with sharp sticks… although that would definitely be "strict Paleo". However, there are some other lifestyle factors that I believe are essential to a healthy and more Paleo/Primal existence. 
  • Sleep enough and sleep well. Take afternoon naps if you're in sleep debt
  • Get adequate sun exposure. Play outdoors - preferably in beautiful natural surroundings or by the ocean if at all possible. Go bare-foot.
  • Reduce toxins - from plastics, BPA and known carcinogens (charred food, cigarettes, pesticides, pollution), etc.
  • If you aren't into cooking or grocery shopping, work on it. There's nothing more satisfying than picking out your food directly at a market from farmers/grocers who actually care, then taking it home and cooking something simple and delicious. I guess growing your own food would be better still… One day!
  • Sit as little as possible. Walk more. Drive less. Bike more. 
  • Manage stress however you can - yoga or meditation may seem vain to the uninitiated but it really does work. 
  • Read. Listen to podcasts. Go for long walks. Get a dog. Don't let social media and emails stress you out too much. 
  • Show gratitude that you have the means to eat Paleo and to optimize your health rather than just to survive. A great proportion of the world rely on cheap cereal grains to subsist. Be thankful that you can afford quality meat, fish, vegetables and fruits... and then eat them!
  • Find exercise/activity that you enjoy and do it regularly. Ideally learn to like weights and sprints!
  • Share you Paleo lifestyle with those who are interested but don't be over-zealous about it. Paleo may change your life but unlike Christianity and CrossFit it is not a religion. Each to their own. Except for vegans. But hey, everyone makes mistakes!

---
References:

Joe Cross, 2010, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, Documentary, http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com

Images source: www.someecards.com 

5 comments:

  1. Hey mate, just stumbled upon your articles. Good stuff, enjoying the read. Been a while since Melb Uni gym days. Few questions to throw your way: 1) Do you think that 5-10g of Natural Calm (350-700) is healthy considering you don't really do much dairy? What do you think your mag to calcium daily intake is? Do you believe in 1:1? 2) Do you think that the level of EPA intake could be thinning your blood too much? From what I understand, EPA/DHA from fish oil comes from the fish ingesting algae. This algae is 90% DHA, which is converted to EPA in the fish's body. Check out Dr. Oz's recommendation on DHA supplementation only. Hope all is well mate, looks like you are killing it

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    Replies
    1. Hey Rob, it's been a while!

      Excellent question. Supplementation is a grey area. I err towards a minimal approach. Real foods always trump supplements, but sometimes it is very difficult to quanitfy how much of a micronutrient is actually contained in a food. Magnesium is one of those cases. One of the leading experts on magnesium, Morley Robbins, claims that more than 90% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is depleted over time, whereas calcium tends to accumulate in the body. Even though I don't eat much dairy my calcium levels are high. I very much doubt that many people would have adverse reactions to supplementing daily with magnesium. The average Westener has a calcium to magnesium ratio of 10:1. Way too high! Most people would benefit from cutting down on dairy and supplementing magnesium to get this ratio down to a more desirable level.

      Regarding fish oil, there seems to be some potential oxidative risk to loading up on too much of these volatile short chain polyunsaturated fats. For this reason I only recommend 1-4g of fish oil, daily, at a maximum. Personally, if I eat a serve of oily fish one day I will not have fish oil supplements that day. If I go a couple of days with no dietary sources of fish oil then I will have 1-2g of DHA + EPA. I would prefer to have predominately DHA but I cannot find an affordable source so I buy a supplement that is roughly 1:1 EPA to DHA.

      I definitely do not stress or freak out over any supplements, and I certainly don't spend much money on them.

      I hope this helps. If you're eating right, sleeping right, training smart and managing stress then the minutiae of supplementation really is insignificant. It's less than 1% of the picture in my opinion.

      Take care mate. Please share my articles on social media if you like them!

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  2. Good post. Although it's quite interesting that you perceive the vegan diet to be in opposition to paleo. A whole food, vegan diet is very similar to paleo, obviously without the meat, and a limited amount of good quality eggs and dairy which is something that ties in with the health, environmental and ethical values of a vegan.

    In terms of caveman style diet, many parts of the world this would have been vegan; i.e. in more tropical climates with an abundance of fruit, nuts, seeds and of course veggies.

    Check out www.mindbodygreen.com and you may get used to the idea that vegan and paleo recipes, diets and lifestyle often run near parallel.

    Cheers for the post

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