The paleo diet is a fad to many people, but I have never met one that, when he or she actually tried it, wasn’t happy with the results.
I will try to explain why I believe it is in our best interest to go paleo in means other than anecdotal.
Gluten. It is a protein composite that can be found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. While making your own search through the web to find any studies regarding its adverse symptoms you will probably encounter the research done by Robert Gibson, a professor at the University of Melbourne. His first study, released in 2011, prompted the gluten-free fad. His next research however contradicted the results of the first study. Subjects were mainly suffering a placebo effect, only being affected by gluten itself in a minor way. Moreover Gibson found that fructans, which is a type of FODMAP, which are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by our bodies, have a much worse effect on our bowel functions.
Both the gluten and the fructans are at fault here. Gluten is linked to damaging intestinal villi, which increase intestinal absorption rates 30- to 60-fold. This makes this protein composite an anti-nutrient. There is no need to explain why this is a bad thing.
“But!” – you say – “the paleo diet excludes much more than just wheat!”. It does indeed, and to good measure. Lactin is found in harmful amounts in almost all grains, as well as legumes. This particular compound is linked to obesity, because it blocks the production of a hormone that is responsible for feeling satiated. No wonder obesity rates skyrocket, if we can’t even feel being full.
For the past 200,000 years we really didn’t change that much. Only our surroundings did. What we ate then was enough to be healthy, which means we had a good balance of macronutrients and all the necessary micronutrients. We didn’t eat grains and not only survived, but thrived. It is common knowledge, that while there where many more people dying at younger ages, we were generally much healthier.
The paleo diet encourages eating nutrient-dense foods, not products that have been chemically altered and frozen and re-frozen a dozen times before they arrive on our platter. Without so many starch choices we will naturally turn to fruits and vegetables for our energy, resulting in higher dosages of vitamins and minerals. We also turn to fats as alternative energy sources, fats, as was before mentioned on this site, are essential in high amounts. I also feel obliged to inform you that there are no “bad” fats. There are just healthy ones, and one that are neutral. Paleo eliminates the neutral one, because they are an empty source of energy and we have many other sources of it already.
When you eat meat for almost every meal, you have the urge to change it up. This is a good thing, eating different foods leads to a broader base of micronutrients available to you.
There are no adverse effects to eating paleo. None. It is healthy by all accounts. Whether gluten, lectins, or FODMAPs are unhealthy is no longer up for debate. Our ancestors knew what to eat and we should learn it too.
Do not eat processed food of any kind. Avoid everything that has been packaged and sent from one side of the planet to the other. If possible, eat locally grown fruits and vegetables. Eat meats and eggs from local pastures. This is sometimes hard to accomplish, but worth for so many reasons besides the flavor.
It should be obvious that most grain products are already processed, but I some that are not should also be avoided. This includes, but is not limited to wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains and quinoa.
Do not eat legumes. This includes black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava and all other beans. Peas, chickpeas, lentils and peanuts (which are a blatantly not nuts!). No soy, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame.
Dairy should be avoided from all sources, be it cow, goat or sheep. In all forms, whether its cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt, sour cream, milk and butter (see below for more on butter).
It is advised not to try re-creating baked goods with ingredients that are “paleo”, those are mostly processed, which makes them not paleo at all. If someone can make coconut flour at home, kudos to them, but like I said before – avoid packaging.
Do not drink alcohol, tea or coffee. For most this will probably be the hardest rule. I can only advise to maybe reducing the amounts of liquid drank. When thirsty, drink water, but no one will blame you if you sometimes indulge in a nice, hot cup of tea. You can make one yourself from locally grown herbs.
I believe butter should be an exception, as it generally does more good than bad to our organisms and is amazingly delicious besides. If you have trouble absorbing lactose – most people do – I recommend trying ghee.
I do not have to say that if you drink alcohol from time to time or milk or eat a peanut that you will drop down and die. These are the blueprints upon which you should build your own personalized diet. I can do nothing more than to advise you to stay on the nutrient-dense path.