SO! Dr. Oz has finally decided to have someone from the paleo world on his show. His guest today will be Dr. Loren Cordain – the author of, “The Paleo Diet” (among other books). Dr. Cordain is probably the person most responsible for the expansion and popularization of the Paleo diet. There were many others writing about it around the same time, but his book seemed to have the greatest effect. Since Dr. Cordain published his book (and then later an updated version – to reflect some new research since the first publication), there has been an acceleration in the number of “paleo” books at Chapters (or barnes and noble or wherever you shop for books).
While it sounds simple, a diet based on “lean meats, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds” seems to be confusing for many people. Let’s break it down a bit and do a little explaining as to what’s going on.
The meat on wild caught, pastured and/or grass fed animals is typically more lean (i.e. containing less fat) then the meat we buy in the grocery store. This is mostly because the meat we buy in the grocery store comes from factory farming. This is where any amount of weight loss in an animal cuts into revenue – so exercise and nutrient dense, calorie poor foods are not the main source of food for those animals. The animals are designed, and provided with a diet and lifestyle that will yield the most meat in the least amount of time.
On the other side of the coin is wild caught meat (Moose, elk, deer/venison, fish, etc.), pastured or grass fed meats (pork, beef, lamb, etc.) and chickens raised on pasture as well. These animals live a normal animal life, and as such don’t tend to overeat, tend to move around to get their food (the many plants available in the field they live), and don’t tend to store unnecessary fat. This makes the meat “lean”.
The general guideline here when purchasing at the store – buy organic grass-fed and/or “wild” and/or “pastured”. If you do buy conventional beef or pork – leaner cuts are better choices (although often more tough and less delicious – the slow cooker is your friend).
This should make up the bulk of your plate. Spinach takes up a lot of room on the plate. So does most other vegetables. The fibre, vitamins and nutrients available in the vegetables you eat provide a lot in the way of nutrition, and very little in the way of calories.
Aim to eat a variety of colours and textures with your vegetables. This can also mean cooking or eating raw. I recommend both to my patients. There’s no secret that eating vegetables is good for you. Choose the ones you like – and purchase organic if you can. Better yet, plant a garden.
Fruit are much sweeter than they were even 50 years ago (ask your grandparents). They also contain less fibre. They also contain lots of vitamins and nutrients you need to be healthy. So while the sugar content of fruit may set some peoples weight loss goals back, there is still value in eating them. Berries are generally one of the best choices. Local and ripe is ideal. You don’t need fancy acai or goji berries from halfway around the world. Local blueberries have about the same level of “antioxidants” and other health promoters.
Fruit should be kept in the breakfast and post workout windows or as a “snack” to help deal with cravings for sweets.
Nuts & Seeds
These are optional – they contain some great minerals and can help in the maintenance of good health – but they can also be a double edged sword. They’re high in calories and it’s easy to eat a lot of them. They also contain a skewed ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s (the fats in our body that help make our cells pliable like they should be – and help us deal with inflammation).
Used as a garnish and as the occasional snack, nuts and seeds can be a good addition to our diet.
So what about carbs?
They’re present in your fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. If you’re an athlete using the glycolytic pathway (working very hard) frequently, adding in starchier vegetables is a good idea (potatoes, yams, squashes, etc.)
So is it LOW-CARB? Or HIGH-CARB?
It’s whatever you need it to be. The various natural, healthy living populations from the distant and recent past, as well as those still in existence today have their food groups in common – but their macronutrient ratio is all over the map. This means there are groups like the Inuit eating very little plant matter and a VERY low carb diet, and there are groups like the Kitavans, who eat a lot of starchy roots and tubers, and derive most of their calories from carbohydrates. You will likely fall somewhere in between them – and the only way to know best where you should be is to experiment and if you feel the need, to consult with an expert in this style of eating.
What about fibre?
There’s plenty in the fruit and vegetables you’ll be eating.
What about calcium?
This is a longer question to answer – but the bottom line is that there are far more minerals in bone than calcium, and eating in this way will create an internal environment conducive to creating and maintaining strong bones.
Can I eat (insert food you know you shouldn’t have) while eating “paleo”?
Yes. You can eat whatever you want. BUT – first you should set aside 30 days and eat a strict paleo diet – THEN feel free to add back whatever you want (1 thing at a time) and see how your body responds. Maybe ice cream gives you a migraine. Does that mean you can’t have it? No. It means you can have it so long as you’re prepared to have a migraine. At least now you’ll know to be prepared and you know the connection between your food, and how you feel. Your level of buy-in is ALWAYS up to you.
What if I have other questions?
I work with a large range of people with how to best tune their diet. You will help improve health, performance and longevity but most importantly – you’ll develop a healthy relationship with what you eat.
Feel free to contact me about working together to find the right nutrition plan for you!
Dr. Adam Ball