In Defense of Paleo

Sorry to bring things back into gear with another very enthralling food post, but I have some thoughts and a blog is the perfect place for me to express them!  I’ve talked about labels, I’ve talked about food.  What about labeling the way you approach food?

The “Paleo” or “Paleolithic” diet is one supposedly based upon the principle of only eating those foods that were available to our paleolithic era ancestors.

The Paleo diet is based on these premises:

  • Higher protein intake than is standard (target is 19-35% of daily caloric intake)
  • Lower carbohydrate intake than is standard (target is 35-45% of daily caloric intake)
  • Carbohydrates are primarily made up of non-starchy vegetables and fruits with a low glycemix index
  • High fiber intake (from those non-starchy veggies and fruits)
  • Moderate to higher fat intake than is standard, primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats balanced with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats
  • Target alkalinity of the diet to balance dietary acid

Foods to be avoided (ideally cut entirely) on the Paleo diet are:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Refined/processed sugars
  • Processed foods
  • Refined/processed vegetable oils

What people generally think the Paleo diet is:

  • Gimmicks
  • Bacon

Looking at those guidelines, you may have some questions if you’re new to Paleo and have never heard of it.  You might worry about the validity of either this template or the very template the US Government provides us in the form of a grain-based pyramid.

When you look at the guidelines, it seems that at its core, the Paleo diet is a diet centered on whole foods. The diet avoids foods that can damage the body.  Grains and legumes do have characteristics that can be detrimental (a post for another day, but we’ll get there) – things like lectins, phytates, and more can be harming you without you ever knowing.  A huge amount of people have gastrointestinal issues with dairy.  Refined and processed foods are a staple in the Standard American Diet (appropriately acronym-ed) but are terrible for us.  We know these things. 

Have people capitalized on the Paleo craze? Absolutely.  Are people doing it to lose weight and reach fitness goals? You betcha.

Is this diet actually based on science underneath all the marketing? I daresay it is.

People are quick to attack the Paleo diet.  Paleolithic hunter-gatherers didn’t carry around jars of coconut oil, nor had they domesticated hens and other livestock to eat bacon and eggs as I so frequently do.  The Paleo hunter-gatherer was eating a diet of mostly twigs and berries with some wild game.  Our 21st century version has accommodated the fact that we have easily accessible food sources from animals and vegetables all over the world.  To say one ascribes to the Paleo diet does not mean they spear a bunny from the rooftop of their garage while wearing a loincloth (or whatever cavemen did). 

To ascribe to the Paleo diet is to avoid processed and refined food-like products, avoid foods with potential to harm the gut and body, and eat unprocessed, whole foods. 

So, yes. The Paleo diet is a gimmick.  People are profiting from the word Paleo.  If you don’t dig that, I don’t blame you.  I also dislike slapping a name on something just to make a buck.  But I’m going to continue browsing Paleo websites and recipes because I know that anything marked Paleo is something I can eat as a person who avoids processed foods.  There’s nothing wrong with the premise of the Paleo diet, which is “eat real food.”

 

7 thoughts on “In Defense of Paleo

  1. Lois Field says:

    I was so excited to see a post from you in my inbox! I can’t follow the Paleo diet due to the animal protein levels, but I agree that any “diet” that centers on whole foods is what we should be looking at to improve our health, and yes, lose weight.

  2. Nicola B says:

    I agree, focussing on eating unprocessed food as much as possible can only be a good thing! Although I am rather attached to dairy product eating, so proper paleo diet is probably not for me…

    One of my hens laid an egg for the first time in ages at the weekend- fresh egg= yum!

    • Caitlin says:

      I want chickens so badly! Unfortunately keeping hens or any livestock is illegal within my city limits😦

      I’d try raw dairy. I am confident that cavemen would have eaten cheese if they knew how to make it haha!

  3. Maria says:

    I was paleo(-ish) for a while, in many ways it was very helpful. But after some time I could feel my body needing quality dairy and a bit of grains and pulses again. Carbs in the form of fruit, veggies and nuts just weren’t cutting it anymore, and I’ve heard of many people with similar experiences. So my two cents would be to just listen to your body, and if it at some time (that could be 5 months or 5 years down the line or it might not happen at all) it indicates it’s not quite happy, maybe you just need to make som adjustment within the paleo diet, or maybe you really need some non-paleo foods. Our needs can change so much, I know mine do.🙂 You probably know all of this, I’m just throwing it out there anyway.🙂 I remember it was very helpful to me to read about other people who weren’t thriving long-term on a strict paleo diet, when I was starting to notice the same things.

    • Caitlin says:

      In general, I am paleo-ish as well. I reduce grains but still eat rice and non-GMO corn. I haven’t cut out sugar. I am not convinced any one “diet” or eating style is the answer to everyone’s ills, but avoiding processed crap is a diet I can get behind!

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