If that last post left you wanting a deeper explanation about the Paleo diet, this is for you.
- Why no grains? “There’s no way I can live without bread.”
- What about all the vitamins and minerals?
- Where will I get my fiber?”
- “Wheat, corn, and legumes seem like real food why eliminate those?
Lets take this one at a time.
1. I don’t think I can live without ____ (or some other food).
That’s a bit dramatic wouldn’t you say? It’s not like you’re giving up oxygen, water, or sex. Those would be tough to give up. Maybe not easy at first, it’s something your completely capable of doing.
When I hear “I don’t think I can live without_____” 9 times out of 10 it’s a wheat product.
Cardiologist and Author of Wheat Belly, Dr William Davis describes a particle in wheat called Exorphins. This particle can work past a membrane in your brain binding like a drug to your opiate receptor. Your lust for wheat, is literally IN your head. No wonder it’s so easy to over-eat on wheat products!
All the more reason to eliminate wheat. Getting back to eating for Physiological need (hunger) and not Psychological desire (addiction). This is huge!
2. Where will I get VITAMINS, MINERALS, AND FIBER?
By eating copious amounts of vegetables and fruits you’ll get all the vitamins, minerals, and fiber you need.
3. Wheat, Corn, and Legumes seem like real food why get rid those?
Most of our consumption of wheat, corn, and legumes comes from processed foods, packed with sugar, and refined vegetable oils, but even in their WHOLE form MANY PEOPLE aren’t well adapted to eating them.
Grains contain Antinutrients like Gluten, Lectins and Phytic Acid.
1. Gluten: a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and kamut is a must avoid for those with celiac disease. Consuming it leads to stomach pain, bloating, severe gas, and diarrhea. Noticed all the “gluten-free” products lately? Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 people, but new research indicates that “Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity” otherwise known as “gluten intolerance” exists.
Basically, Celiac like symptoms shown without testing positive for traditional markers. Additional symptoms linked to gluten sensitivity are, depression, dermatitis, joint pain, numbness of extremities, fatigue, “foggy head”, and headaches.
Sounds like a good reason to avoid gluten.
Why Not Just Go Gluten Free?
Gluten free is only going half way there. It’s appealing because you can continue eating cereal, brownies, cookies, cakes, and other “junk food” disguised as health food. It’s our attempt to cheat the system and get results without creating real change.
Most gluten-free products are made with corn, potato, tapioca, sugar, and rice starch which dramatically raise insulin levels, prompting “fat storage mode.” These products help the pockets of businesses but not your waistline. William Davis says it best. “Be gluten free, but don’t eat gluten free.”
2. Lectins: Present to some extent in most plants and animals they’re particularly common in grains and legumes. Specifically wheat and soy. Lectins are a natural pesticide designed to ward off predators. Predators like you and me! Think of lectins as the teeth of a grain. But this lil guy doesn’t bite until it’s inside you.
Lectins bind to the lining of the small intestine causing damage that can lead to reduced nutrient absorption. Lectin damage can also lead to “leaky gut,” a permiability or breach in the integrity of the intestinal lining.
Once this breach occurs, lectins, partially digested food, and other toxins “leak” into the blood stream. These lectins can bind to other tissues in the body. Our body responds, attacks these foreign invaders and the healthy tissue they’re bound to creating an auto-immune response.
3. Phytic Acid: Present in most grains, Phytic Acid is bound to minerals. Those same minerals your eating whole grains for in the first place. Unfortunately when bound with phytic acid you don’t absorb them very well. Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty from fruits and veggies.
White rice is fairly benign. Removing the bran removes the phytic acid as well as the vitamins and minerals leaving only an insulin spiking starch. So a little white rice isn’t the worst thing and could probably be eaten post workout if you’ve met your physique goals.
Eliminating grains and legumes and focusing on nutrient dense vegetables, fruits, and tubers will also likely reduce your carbohydrate load.
“Oh I see where this is going. This is just another Low Carb diet isn’t it?”
Do we really need that many carbohydrates?
I think of eating “Real Food” as “normal carb” and eating Honey Bunches of Oats, muffins, health bars, cookies, pasta, bagels, and pastries, as eating “high carb.” It’s all perspective.
It doesn’t matter if it’s simple, complex, whole wheat or white, a handful of skittles, a bagel, whole wheat toast, or a snickers bar the result of that carbohydrate is sugar entering the bloodstream. If left unchecked excess sugar in your bloodstream becomes toxic to your cells. This is why diabetics risk losing limbs and going blind if they’re unable to lower their blood sugar.
Your body not wanting this, releases a hormone called insulin from your pancreas. Insulin drives excess sugar from the blood stream into muscles where it’s used or “burned” as energy, or stored in both your muscles and liver as glycogen.
Unfortunately we have limited glycogen storage. The average person has about 300-400 grams of glycogen storage. More muscle = more glycogen storage. (Sounds like a good reason to have adequate levels of lean muscle mass from resistance training eh?).
- When your glycogen stores are full your body can convert and store excess carbohydrate as fat.
- When insulin levels are high we “turn off” our ability to use our fat stores for energy. The fatty acids can’t be released because insulin puts the body in a state of “storage mode.” You’re body is busy dealing/burning the excess carbohydrate.
- Insulin up-regulates (increases) the production of lipoprotein lipase or (LPL) on fat cells. LPL is responsible for pulling fat into your fat cells. Insulin also down-regulates (reduces) LPL on your muscle cells, lowering your body’s ability to pull fatty acids into your muscles where they’re burned as fuel.
Here’s an overly simplified explanation of a rather complex process: Carbohydrate Drives Insulin. Insulin Drives Fat Storage.
Unless your depleting your glycogen stores with sprints or high intensity strength training, the modern world of commuting, desk jobs, and TV watching just doesn’t demand the amount of carbohydrate that processed foods and grains supply us with.
So all carbs are bad?
Of course not.
Were not eliminating carbs, were obtaining them through more nutritionally dense foods like asparagus and spaghetti squash instead of pasta. A hand-full of berries instead of a muffin. Lowering your carbohydrate intake is the result of removing processed foods that are high in anti-nutrients.
Below is a graph by Mark Sisson from Marksdailyapple.com offering his take on carbohydrates effect on weight. Of course this is different for everyone, takes some tinkering to find what works for you, and is dictated by your activity levels.
There are individuals who manage carbohydrate consumption very well and higher levels of consumption don’t seem to give them problems. My guess is if you’re overweight, there’s a good chance that unfortunately you’re not one of them.
It’s hard to over do the carbs and put yourself into the weight gain area when you focus on “Real Food.”
Robb Wolf says it best “you have to earn you carbs.” Maybe you ran sprints or performed an intense lifting session and are in need of more carbohydrate? Instead of pasta why not get those carbs from a nutrient dense, low anti-nutrient food like sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash?
Pending you removed dairy for 30 days and had no issues when you reintroduced, it stick with Full Fat versions of Greek Yogurt, Butter from grass-fed cows, and small amounts of Cheese (Raw-grass fed if available)
Wooooah, wait a minute, “If I eat fat, wont I get fat?” and “won’t that saturated fat raise my cholesterol and give me heart disease?”
Tighten that seat belt up……….
FAT AND CHOLESTEROL
Excepting that eating FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT is tough, I get it. The reality is fat is a usable and often preferred source of fuel for your body.Your body isn’t storing it just to piss you off and stop you from wearing your new swimsuit. Here is an article from Marks Daily Apple that discusses the role of fat as fuel.
In fact when you lose weight you’ll be “burning” or eating a lot of animal fat, yours!
When you burn body-fat a big portion of that fat is saturated. Is your body crazy and trying to kill you? Won’t all that saturated fat raise your cholesterol and give you heart disease?
If cholesterol is the problem why does our body produce about 75% percent of the cholesterol in your body while the food we eat only contributes to about 25% of it?
What’s the point of cholesterol anyway?
- Acts as a building block for EVERY cells membrane
- Synthesizes Vitamins
- Synthesizes steroids, including sex hormones
- Produce bile acids
As important as cholesterol is it’s a good thing our body regulates it.
- If you increase the amount of cholesterol you eat and your body decreases the amount it produces.
- If you decrease the amount of cholesterol you eat and your body increases the amount it produces.
Pretty smart that body of ours.
Here’s an amazing article on cholesterol by Peter Attia M.D. from The Eating Academy. Warning: It’s long and in depth.
Here is a entire website by Chirs Masterjohn dedicated to cholesterol and “uncovering the truth about America’s most demonized nutrient.”
Somethings not adding up here…
Conventional wisdom tells you saturated fat raises your cholesterol and causes heart disease, but what’s the science saying?
According to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which reviewed 21 studies relating to the risk of heart disease, stroke, and saturated fats found that: “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increase risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD [ stroke, and cardiovascular disease].”
So how is it that an ancient fat that’s been around forever, is causing a new disease anyway?
Here’s a blog post with a video about an hour long from Peter Attia M.D. of the EatingAcademy.com entitled “How we came to believe saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us?” He runs through all the science that led to the governments decision to warn us about saturated fat. To summarize, the science wasn’t very compelling.
Below, is a short video giving you the skinny on fat! To summarize, a scientist named Ancel Keys presented a study of six countries demonstrating that countries with higher levels of saturated fat suffered higher rates of heart disease. The problem? Keys had 22 points of data, but that data didn’t support his hypothesis, so it was excluded!
Influenced by bad science, saturated fat was vilified. Vegetable oils in quantities foreign to the human body stepped in to save the day! Unfortunately these vegetable oils aren’t healthy.
IMPORTANT: This isn’t an excuse to throw down hot dogs, cured salamis, Slim-Jims, and whole sticks of butter. But the fear of fat is no reason to choose processed low-fat “diet food,” over foods like grass-fed steaks, fish, whole eggs, coconut oils, avocados, butter from grass-fed cows and other NATURALLY OCCURRING FATS.
The OMEGA FATS
- The omega fats control our inflammatory response. Vegetable oils like soybean, corn, and rapeseed coil contain Omega 6 Fatty Acid which is Pro Inflammatory. Foods like Salmon and Mackerel contain the Omega 3 Fatty Acid which is Anti-Inflammatory. (This is why people supplement with fish oil)
- The natural balance of the Omega fats is said to be 2:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3, just enough Pro Inflammatory fatty acid to protect you when you need it, but not so much to cause problems.
- The SAD (Standard American diet) creates an Omega balance anywhere from 15:1 to 20:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. That’s some serious inflammation going on there.
- Inflammation has been linked to Heart Disease, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, Arthritis, and Cancer.
By eating real food we remove the largest contributors of Pro Inflammatory Fatty Acids, helping restore our body to a more desirable Omega Fatty Acid balance.
Three Common Criticisms
1. “Sounds expensive and seems like a lot of work:” There’s no question processed junk food is cheaper and I won’t pretend I have all the answers. If you’re a single mom working three jobs to support your kids I understand this might be a challenge. Hopefully the positive gains of having more energy, feeling better physically and mentally will offset the costs incurred. This article might help.
For the majority I ask this. Is it really the money? Is it really too much work? If I could bottle looking and feeling better and sell it for 200 dollars a month would you make it work? 500?
2. “It’s to restrictive:” Eating real food only seems restrictive when you focus on foods you CAN’T have. Focus on the amazing foods you CAN have. Maybe you’re worried about living in a state of WANT. No one wins living in a state of WANT. I WANT a cracker, but I CANT have one.
Eating real food won’t seem restrictive once you’ve changed your palate and learned to unlike a few foods.
3. “But what about this study, article, or my friend having success using…?”
I admit you’ll want to yank your hair out trying to read through all the studies on nutrition with one contradicting the next. You might even have a friend who thrives on snickers bars and lollipops. My guess is if your reading this, your current nutritional approach has failed you.
Arriving a point where there’s irrefutable evidence and agreement about health and nutrition seems unlikely. I DO NOT believe there is a one size fits all approach to nutrition. I also think there is more we don’t know that what we do know.
That being said, I believe the Paleo/Primal Diet offers a solid framework off which to eat. One that I and many clients have had great success with. Keeping that in mind no one knows your body better than you. Take a pragmatic approach, not dogmatic one!
It may take some time and a bit of self experimentation to find out the appropriate ratios of fat/protein/carbohydrate that YOU thrive best on. Are you carb tolerant or intolerant? How active is your lifestyle? Does dairy “work” for you?
Discovering your tolerance or how much you’ve personally “adapted” to specific foods can only be done by you. Others can offer you recommendations, but ultimately you have to discover what best nourishes your body, gives you sustained energy, and helps you Look, Feel, and Live Great.
Here’s an inspiring story from Dr. Terry Wahls demonstrating the power of nutrition and how she used food to treat her M.S. symptoms. It’s pretty amazing.
If your unhappy with how you look and feel, try it for 30 days and then decide if it’s worth it.
Grab a pen and answer to the next three questions. Do answers to 1 and 2 outweigh 3?
- WHY NOT?
- WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE?
- WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO GAIN? Look, Feel, and Live Great!
Let Food Be Thy Medicine, and Medicine Be Thy Food. Hippocrates 460 B.C.
“Luke why should I listen to you? You’re just a personal trainer, how about you stick to the push-ups and crunches.”
I couldn’t agree more. Here are few websites by people much smarter than me.
- Marksdailyapple.com – Mark Sisson Author of the Primal Blueprint is the place for all things Primal! A great community and place to learn the ins and outs of eating Real Food.
- Robbwolf.com – Robb Wolf Author of the Paleo Solution offers a deeper look into eating Paleo with a great blog as well as podcasts.
- Eatingacademy.com Peter Attia M.D. who “has been obsessively reading everything on the “science” of nutrition”. If your interested in the details this site is your ticket.
- Chriskresser.com – Chris Kresser Chris Kresser helps “others see through the common myths and misdirection peddled by the media and medical establishment.”