Monday, January 18, 2016

The Truth About the Paleo Diet Plan – Common Arguments For and Against

I can almost guarantee when you bring the subject of the paleo diet plan up with people for the first time, you’re going to hear the same old arguments and objections against it.

So I thought it was about time there was a list of counter arguments you can use when you come up against them. In the first of two articles, I look at some of the most common and provide some quick replies you can use to defend your position in any discussion.

In this article we’ll look at the arguments that “cavemen died young”, “saturated fat clogs your arteries” and “but whole grains are healthy”

Argument #1: Cavemen died young…

Well, that’s partly true and can be largely put down to the fact people in the Paleolithic period didn’t have access to hospital care if they got a serious injury or to antibiotics if they caught a serious infection.

If Paleolithic people did survive serious trauma, child birth and infection the evidence is they lived a long and healthy life and would have had just as long a lifespan as we do now – despite not having access to the same medical care we have available today.

In fact, the chances are their quality of life may have been better as they didn’t seem to suffer from the same chronic illnesses and degenerative diseases we get from our modern foods and lifestyles.

Argument #2: Saturated fat clogs your arteries…

No it doesn’t. We’ve been eating fat, lard, meat, eggs, butter, ghee and coconut oil for thousands of years. It’s only in the last few decades we’ve developed an irrational fear of saturated fat – perpetuated by the ‘low-fat’ food industry and drug companies pushing cholesterol lowering drugs.

This stems from the ‘lipid hypothesis’ which claims high cholesterol is the major cause of heart disease. The flawed logic is that dietary saturated fat raises cholesterol and therefore contributes to heart disease (which despite decades of research has never been shown to be true).

It’s an excess of highly processed polyunsaturated fats in the form of vegetable oils and man-made trans-fats in processed foods which lead to health problems.

Argument #3: But whole grains are healthy…

The truth is, grains are a relatively poor source of nutrition which displace healthier and more nutrient dense foods from the diet (for instance meat and vegetables). They can also spike blood sugar which leads to an excessive insulin response which, repeatedly over time, has been linked to diabetes and obesity.

And in addition some grains are toxic – just ask the unfortunate person suffering from celiac disease how ill even the smallest amount of gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) can make them.

Wheat in particular has been linked to skin problems, joint pain, heartburn, autoimmune disorders and even increased mortality in wheat eating populations compared with non-wheat eating populations – doesn’t sound so healthy now, does it!

In this instalment we’ll tackle “where’s the fibre”, “what about the calcium”, “paleo isn’t sustainable” and “eating paleo’s expensive”…

Argument #1: Where’s the fibre?…

In the previous article in this series we gave several good reasons to drop grains from your diet. So, if we’re not eating grains then how do we get enough fibre?

Easy, you can get more than enough from eating vegetables, fruit and tubers.

In any case a ton of fibre in your diet isn’t likely necessary. To keep regular all you need to do is drink plenty of water, move around, eat your vegetables, eat fat and try adding fermented foods to your diet like sauerkraut to introduce beneficial bacteria to your gut flora.

Argument #2: What about the calcium?…

Even if you don’t eat or restrict dairy it’s still possible to get all the calcium you need from eating leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), bone broth and canned fish.

Besides, by eating a paleo-style diet you will actually absorb more calcium by having a diet low in phytates (which bind minerals and prevent their absorption) and other anti-nutrients – remember it isn’t about how much you eat but how much you absorb.

And anyway, bone health isn’t only about calcium – ensuring you get enough vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium and doing some form of weight bearing activity are all equally as important.

Argument #3: Paleo isn’t sustainable…

An argument you might hear is that a diet based on plenty of animal products is not very environmentally friendly or sustainable because the rearing of animals uses up a lot of land and water resources as well as contributing to carbon emissions.

A counter argument is that agriculture as it currently stands is equally unfriendly and unsustainable because of the amount of land turned over to mono-crops destroying bio-diversity, not to mention the chemicals used to grow those crops. Also, without heavy subsidies many of these crops would be uneconomical to grow.

However, how to feed and nourish a growing world population sustainably is an important question that needs more consideration than the scope of this short article allows.  For a considered and more detailed analysis I recommend you check out Robb Wolf’s article “The Paleo Diet, Sustainability And Economic Growth”  and/or Dr Matt Metzgar’s  talk on YouTube “Sustainability of Paleo Diets”.

Argument #4: Eating paleo’s expensive…

Sure, eating a quality, nutrient dense diet may cost a little more than a diet of crap out of a box, but it needn’t break the bank. No-one’s saying you need to dine on prime, grass-fed steak every night.

Here are some tips to shop for and eat a paleo diet inexpensively:-

buy food that’s on special offer; buy food produced locally that’s in season; shop at farmer’s markets; buy a whole chicken and use every last morsel including the bones to make a broth; buy non-perishable items in bulk; minimize waste, use leftovers and don’t buy what you won’t use; buy frozen; learn to cook; invest in a crockpot/slow cooker to make delicious meals from cheaper cuts of meat; get your parents to go paleo and invite yourself for dinner (and offer to take home any leftovers The Truth About the Paleo Diet Plan – Common Arguments For and Against Part 2 ).

Eating a paleo-style diet will take a little more preparation and planning but definitely does not have to be an expensive way of eating.

So, no more excuses – you’ve now seen some of the most common arguments for and against eating a paleo-style diet.  I’ve shown you should have absolutely no concerns to eating a real, whole foods diet based on evolutionary principles.  Try it and watch your health improve.

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