The PALEO lifestyle, to those looking in from the outside, is often thought to be akin to a caveman running amok in a loincloth. Followers of Paleo eat ginormous amounts of practically raw meat and shun any semblance of modern life. We quiver and quake at the site of a grain, and run screaming in the opposite direction any dairy-laced food matter.
How The Cashew Slipped Through, And Other Paleo Myths And Mysteries
While I understand how some of these mythical perceptions came to be, it is important they are debunked. Below I have highlighted the most common Paleo myths so that the record can be set straight.
- Paleo people eat tons of meat. It is interesting when I observe my paleo clients versus the vegetarians that I work with. I find the people that practice paleo ingest far more vegetables and fruits than the vegetarians. There is no prescription in the paleo community that you are required to eat large portions of meat. In fact, the recommendation is to eat smaller portions at a time to aid in ease of digestion. There is a focus on meat – Paleo people are very choosy in how their meat is raised and sourced. The philosophy is to obtain meat that is humanly raised grass fed organic where possible.
- The Paleo diet is too low carb. Somewhere along the way, the grain growers have led us to believe that carbohydrate levels in grains are somehow superior to vegetable carbohydrates. There is no doctrine in paleo to be low carb for the sake of being “low carb.” The intention is to remove grains that are processed and can lead to a host of health issues. By the very nature of removing grains from our diets, we are going to be “lower” carb then if we ate a big pile of pasta and chips. The level of carbohydrate typically ingested by the paleo enthusiast is ideal.
- Legumes are not allowed but cashews are? The simplest answer is that cashews are not a legume even though they quite often tend to get thrown in that category. Cashews are a seed that grows from the cashew apple. This cashew apple fruit grows on trees in Brazil. Possibly the bigger question is why do paleo enthusiasts choose not to consume legumes? There are several reasons. The phytic acid content that is high in the legume family can block the absorption of nutrients in your intestinal tract. in addition, the lectin contained in legumes can cause irritation and inflammation in the gut and can lead to Leaky Gut. So cashews (not a legume) are fine but beans, from soy to lima, are best left off your plate.
- Paleo is trendy and a fad. There are typical criteria that make up a “fad” diet: Over focus on one food, the promise of quick weight loss, short-term versus long-term, designed for weight loss, not health. The Paleo lifestyle has been around for many years and focuses on long-term health, not weight loss. It is sustainable for the long haul and includes a wide variety of foods from which to choose. Paleo is most definitely not a fad diet.
- Paleo is not a balanced diet. It would take an entire post to go into the political motivations behind the government food guide recommendations. But let’s focus on what the Paleo diet is recommending. Lean, well-sourced proteins, healthy fats, tons of organic vegetables and fruits and small portions of nuts and seeds. These recommendations are ideal for our physiologic makeup and allow our biochemistry to function optimally. The recommendations are free of the common allergens like gluten and dairy and are nutrient dense with a focus on brain function and preservation. I love what Chris Kresser ND said, (badly paraphrased) “I wish Paleo had never been given the name ‘Paleo’, or if it was given a name it should just be called the ‘Whole Food Diet’.” See His MBG Talk HERE (So Good)
- Paleo diet lacks calcium because of shunning dairy. There are many foods that are on par with dairy for calcium content. And by avoiding dairy, you avoid the inflammation and congestion that dairy causes within our systems. Okra, broccoli, almonds, collard greens, kale, arugula, small fishes (mackerel, sardine) are all excellent options for high calcium containing foods.
- Paleo diet has way too much fat. We could not have some more full spectrum on that one, right? I remember my mother buying everything low or nonfat in the late eighties and nineties. What kind of chemical crap storm went together to make nonfat mayonnaise I know not what but thank God we have got this one figured out. Fat is not bad. Crap fat is bad. Healthy, omega-three-rich fats are awesome and so necessary to have a healthy functioning brain and body. Experts like Dr. Hyman, Dr. Axe, Dr. Mercola, and dozens of others agree that we need to be getting more fat, not less, but fats that are clean, unsaturated, and rich with Omega threes.
- If you are Paleo, you can never drink again! – Thank God this one is not true. Many folks that practice the Paleo lifestyle intentionally choose an 80/20 or 90/10 practice. That means there is a 10-20 percent room for flex on the plan. Said differently, 10-20 percent of the time you can choose to eat from non-Paleo food list. However, my recommendation is to be still highly conscious of your choices. SO if you are going to have a cookie have and organic, whole food cookie made at home, not a Chips Ahoy. But where does this leave alcohol? If you are in a healing phase, trying to lose weight or doing a Whole30 of course, alcohol is off the list. But if this is not the case, a small amount of alcohol is acceptable. Stick to vodka, wine, ciders and avoid the grain-based alcohols like beer and certain liquors. If drinking a mixed drink, avoid sugary mixes like a margarita, or sodas. A glass of red wine or a vodka and soda are excellent choices if you choose that alcohol is right for you on your Paleo journey.
Now that some of the most common myths are debunked you might be wondering how to lead a more Paleo-focused lifestyle. Here are two articles that you might find helpful to get started! I encourage you to read through these this week and start to look objectively at how you can shift one meal at a time. WHAT IS THE PALEO DIET?, PALEO 101
HEY, NOW THAT YOU ARE ALL PALEO AND STUFF I SHOULD GIVE YOU FIVE FREE PALEO RECIPES!!