20 Things You Didn’t Know About Paleo

Posted: 09/06/2015 in English, Paleo Diet
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By Chris Kresser (web)

Paleo has received a lot of attention in the media over the past couple of years—some of it positive, and some of it negative—and there are a lot of misconceptions about what a Paleo approach to nutrition and lifestyle means for most people. With this in mind, here are 20 things I think everyone should know about Paleo.

harvest of fresh greens and vegetables

1. Following a Paleo diet/lifestyle today is not about re-enacting the exact diet/lifestyle of our ancestors.

Instead, it’s about embracing the principles of their diet and lifestyle to a modern context: eating nutrient dense, toxin-free, whole foods, moving our bodies regularly, sleeping at least 8 hours a night, managing our stress, and playing and having fun. But instead of saying all of this each time, it’s a lot easier to just say “Paleo”! Learn more …

2. Most hunter gatherers did not eat a “low-carb” diet.

The average carbohydrate intake of hunter gatherers ranged from 30-40% of total calories. This is not a low-carb diet! It’s a moderate carb diet, and it’s important to realize that virtually all of the research that has shown benefits for the Paleo diet involved a Paleo diet with this carbohydrate range. Learn more …

3. A very-low-carb (VLC) or ketogenic diet and Paleo diet are not the same thing.

Some of the earliest adopters and advocates of the Paleo approach were coming from low-carb diets like Atkins. As a result, the low-carb ideology got mixed together with Paleo, despite the fact that most true Paleolithic diets were not low-carb (as I described above). And while some people do thrive on a low-carb diet over the long-term, many people don’t and can even experience harm. Learn more …

4. It’s best to consider Paleo as a template, rather than a “diet”.

A Paleo diet implies a particular approach with clearly defined parameters that all people should follow. There’s little room for individual variation or experimentation. A Paleo template implies a more flexible and individualized approach. A template contains a basic format or set of general guidelines that can then be customized based on the unique needs and experience of each person. Learn more …

5. There is no single approach that works for everyone.

Just as there was tremendous variation in what our ancestors ate, there is also tremendous variation in what works for each person. Some people clearly do better with no dairy products. Yet others seem to thrive on them. Some feel better with a low-carb approach, while others feel better eating more carbohydrate. Some seem to require a higher protein intake (up to 20-25% of calories), but others do well when they eat a smaller amount (10-15%). The key is to personalize your approach to meet your own unique needs. Learn more …

6. The foods emphasized on the Paleo diet are loaded with the nutrients our bodies need.

The most nutrient dense foods you can eat are organ meats, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood, beef, lamb, and wild game, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. And those are exactly the foods that a Paleo diet emphasizes! VIDEO

7. Vibrant health is your birthright (chronic disease is not inevitable).

Today, chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disease are so common we’ve accepted them as “normal”. But humans lived for thousands of generations virtually free from these modern, inflammatory diseases—most of which have only became common in the last 50–100 years ago. VIDEO

8. You don’t have to be 100% compliant to benefit from a Paleo-style diet.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a “Paleo-style diet” is what we’ve evolved to eat. But that doesn’t mean you have to strictly and rigidly follow Paleo diet guidelines 100% of the time in order to be healthy, regardless of what the Paleo zealots will tell you. With some exceptions, you’ll get most of the benefits by following it 80–90% of the time. Learn more …

9. Sugar isn’t “toxic”.

Sugar is neither a toxin nor a replacement for real food. Ultimately, small amounts of sugar can fit into a whole foods, nutrient-dense, Paleo-style diet, as long as you recognize it for what it truly is: a treat. Learn more …

10. You might not instantly feel better when you start eating Paleo.

The reason some people transitioning to a Paleo diet initially feel a dip in overall energy is not that the diet is unhealthy or that they need more simple carbs. It is that their body has been conditioned to rely on sugar for energy and needs time and support to adapt to burning fat for energy instead. Learn more …

11. The Paleo approach is not just about weight loss; it can also prevent and even reverse chronic disease.

Paleo is remarkably effective for weight loss, but it’s benefits extend far beyond that. As a clinician I’ve seen a Paleo-type diet and lifestyle lead to dramatic results in people with a wide range of conditions, from type 2 diabetes, to IBS and other digestive problems, to Hashimoto’s, MS and other autoimmune diseases, to infertility and hormone imbalance. Learn more …

12. Full-fat dairy products can actually be a healthy addition to a Paleo diet—for some people.

Strict Paleo diets exclude all dairy products because our ancestors didn’t eat them. But is that reason enough to eliminate them from our diets? While it’s certainly true that some people are intolerant to the proteins or sugars in dairy products, it’s also true that modern research suggests that full-fat (but not non-fat or low-fat) dairy has several health benefits, including protecting against obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Learn more …

13. Red meat is one of the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.

Conventional wisdom blames red meat for everything from heart disease to cancer. These claims are ill-founded and misleading; red meat is a healthy and nutrient-dense choice. Learn more …

14. High cholesterol is not the primary cause of heart disease.

For decades we’ve been told that eating saturated fat and cholesterol raises the level of cholesterol in our blood, and high cholesterol in our blood contributes to heart disease. But recent research has shown that 1) there is little evidence to support the idea that cholesterol or saturated fat in the diet affect blood cholesterol levels for most people, and 2) that high cholesterol levels in the blood alone are not a strong risk factor for heart disease. Learn more …

15. Many of the packaged “Paleo friendly” foods are full of modern additives – and some of them are not so friendly to your health.

Just because a packaged food is labeled “Paleo-friendly”, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Some of these foods contain modern additives that may cause digestive distress and other problems. Learn more …

16. Eating a Paleo-style diet doesn’t have to be expensive.

While it’s true that real, nutrient-dense foods can be more expensive than highly processed and refined junk food, a Paleo-type diet doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little planning and some smart shopping, there’s no reason that Paleo should cost more than your old way of eating. Learn more …

17. Legumes are more Paleo friendly than you might think.

Paleo dogma holds that we should strictly avoid legumes because 1) they aren’t part of our ancestral diet, and 2) they contain toxic anti-nutrients like lectin and phytic acid. But research suggests that some of our ancestors did, in fact, consume legumes, and that the lectins and phytic acid in legumes are not the “boogeymen” we’ve been led to believe they are. Learn more …

18. Paleo is not just about food.

There’s no question that a nutrient-dense, real-food diet is the cornerstone of health. But it’s also true that lifestyle choices like physical activity, sleep, and stress management play an equally important role in determining our health. Learn more …

19. Paleo-friendly starches are not the same as industrial starches.

Some advocates of the Paleo diet have argued that we should avoid starches because they contribute to obesity and other diseases. While it’s true that highly processed and refined starches like wheat flour are harmful, there’s no evidence that the same is true for whole-food starches like potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantain, or taro root. Our ancestors consumed these foods for millions of years, and there are many examples of cultures around the world that consume a high-(real-food)-starch diet and maintain excellent health. Learn more …

20. Paleo cooking can be both delicious and easy.

You don’t have to be a 5-star chef to make delicious Paleo meals. Armed with the recipes below, you’ll impress your friends and family with delicious meals without spending countless hours in the kitchen. Learn more …

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