The Paleo Diet: The Misunderstood Diet

“The Paleo diet is stupid.”

“I could never give up bread or pasta.”

“Why would you want to eat like a caveman?”

“It’s not even historically accurate because people’s diets varied by region.”

“The foods we have today is nothing like the foods they had back then. This diet is LITERALLY impossible!”

“Ugh, not the Paleo diet again. I’m tired of hearing about your crossfit crap.”

The list goes on and on about how the paleo diet is stupid “fad diet.” I’ve heard it all, and some of it wasn’t even directed at me because I don’t broadcast that I’m eating paleo as often as some people think. Sure, I’ll post random recipes that are paleo-friendly, but outside of that, I pretty much keep the percentage of paleo-friendly meals that I do eat under wraps.

It makes me kinda sad that the paleo diet has such a bad reputation. And by sad, I’m not emotionally heartbroken over it. I mean, I’m disappointed every time someone feels the need to bring up how “historically inaccurate” and “dumb” it is. This is because from what I’ve gathered, the paleo diet, within itself, isn’t a bad way to eat.

First off, what is the paleo diet?

I mean, I’ve mentioned paleo-friendly recipes on my blog before, but what does being paleo actually mean? Metaphorically, it is a “fad diet” that branches from the tree which represents the clean eating movement, or C.E.M. The C.E.M. was spurred by the belief that today’s food culture is loaded with too many processed foods, which often include ingredients that our bodies were not meant to consume. All of these preservatives and added hormones and obscene amounts of salt and sugars are making our bodies bloated, slow, and overall, unhealthy. The clean eating movement is the solution to this problem. It encourages people to take a look at what they’re putting into their bodies. It requires knowing where your food comes from and what was used to grow it. It forces people to question if what they’re eating is really the best for them. It makes people reconsider each individual ingredient and the affect each ingredient has on the human body. It allows people to make more informed decisions about the foods they eat. It encourages a person to shop and eat locally to not only reduce waste and transportation costs, but to also show support for local farmers and businesses. This also makes it easier to track the origin of ingredients. As you can see, C.E.M. requires a lot of work and conscious thought.

Where the C.E.M. simply requires a person to find out where their food is coming from and to avoid processed (or just over-processed) items, the paleo diet takes it one step further. The paelo diet takes into consideration the actual effect each individual ingredient has on a person’s body, and if it makes a person feel unhealthy, bloated, and slow, it eliminates that ingredient all together. To those in this grain- and potato-loving society, this may seem a bit extreme, but it really isn’t. Grains and white (starchy) potatoes are high in carbohydrates and empty calories and a vast majority of the population that consume them are not active enough to effectively burn off all of the accumulated carbs. Instead, the body processes the carbohydrates and stores it as excess fat. The paleo diet eliminates this step by simply cutting out these high-carb/ nutrient-deficient ingredients in the first place, turning the focus onto fruits and vegetables, which not only provide the body with enough sustainable carbohydrates, but they often do double, triple, or even quad duty by supplying the body with various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Pair that with the inclusion of meats and eggs (but the avoidance of dairy products. Humans are not genetically designed to ingest other animals’ milk), which provide the body with a natural, healthy source of protein and fats, you have a well balanced diet. Plus, since the usage of seasonings and spices and seed oils are highly encouraged, paleo dishes are rarely bland or boring. In fact, these ingredients provide extra zero to low calorie health benefits. This really is the simplest, most basic thought process of what the paleo diet entails.

There are other foodstuffs that are not included in the diet (but are socially deemed healthy), like legumes and beans (this includes peanuts, soy, chickpeas, lentils, and more), because they tend to cause the body discomfort and digestive issues, and that is what the diet is trying to prevent. Plus, the phytic acid in these ingredients make it difficult for the body to absorb any nutrients obtained by legumes and beans. Outside of providing fiber, the consumption of these plant-based edibles are counter-productive to the cause.

So, this doesn’t sound bad, right? Aside from how strict each individual follows the guidelines, the fundamentals of this diet makes it actually one of the healthiest. For example, some people choose to include pseudo-grains, nuts, and seeds, which are more nutrient dense than just plain grains (some are even reliable sources of protein), but are still high in carbohydrates. These include quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Others choose to eliminate sugars altogether, while some will include unrefined, natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar. The difference between these natural sugars and their sugar cane counterparts is that they provide more health benefits. Honey is known for helping everything. It’s anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-blood sugar spikes, anti-heart disease, anti-burn, and anti-dry skin properties put honey at the top of any sweeteners list. Maple syrup, like honey, provides cardiovascular and immune support while acting as a reliable source for antioxidants. Coconut palm sugar is actually great for those with diabetes because it has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t spike a person’s blood sugar if consumed. There are those who learn how to make paleo-friendly desserts with coconut and nut flours, while there are those who keep it simple with smoothies and ice creams made with frozen bananas, dark chocolate, and other paleo acceptable items. Some people give themselves a cheat day, while others will follow this diet to a T because they feel better about themselves. There are just so many individual variants of this one diet, but the basics should be the same. So, let us review.

The paleo diet:

  1. It eliminates anything unnatural, processed, bloat and fat producing.
  2. It takes out all of the unhealthy ingredients and nutritionally sparse foods, and replaces them with a higher quality of edible fundamentals.
  3. ***BONUS: With the removal of grains, dairy, legumes, and beans, the paleo diet -by process of elimination- is gluten, peanut, diary, and soy free!***

This sounds great! This is literally how people should be eating.

So what gives the paleo diet it’s bad rep?

Apparently its name and the people often associated with it.

The name of this diet derived from a time period where the hunter/ gatherer dichotomy was the basis for obtaining food, hence the paleo diet. The name was influenced by the primitive actions used to obtain food of that time period. It was NOT influenced by the types of food consumed. There were no processed foods, no farming of wheat and rice and other grains because they weren’t edible in its basic form. Honestly, that shit was probably assumed to be grass and didn’t taste/ digest well. Even if the type of gathering varied by region, our ancestors only had the option of one or the other. So to all the people who say that calling it the paleo diet makes no sense because “the food is different,” “the meat is fattier,” “the vegetables aren’t the same,” “all the crops we eat today are hybrids and wouldn’t have existed,” please, shut up and stop nitpicking about something that’s supposed to be a positive change in a person’s life. No one goes on the paleo diet thinking, “YES! I’m eating like a caveperson!” No. They go on it for the health benefits. They go on it to feel better about themselves. They go on it because they want to prevent that excess fat.

Don’t be THAT person.

Now, the paleo diet might seem like a recent development, but it was actually created in the 1970’s, basically at the same time of the C.E.M. It was designed by a doctor who specialized in the study of the stomach and intestines (which explains why it valiantly excludes legumes and beans). Decades went by before the paleo diet finally gained enough traction to be considered an effective diet in the mainstream health scene. It actually didn’t become popular until the early 2000’s, when Loren Cordain wrote a book that was published, outlining the benefits and practices of the paleo diet. Since then, the paleo diet was the go-to diet for not only fat loss, but muscle building as well. The paleo diet’s lack of empty carbohydrates coupled with the increased intake of nutrient-dense foods made it the perfect diet for those who wanted to get in shape, be healthy, and pack on the muscle. Emerging from this group of people came the Crossfit Crazies. Now, I only call them that because that is the stereotype they have turned themselves into. They’re so bad that even CollegeHumor made a video about how crazy, dangerous, and unregulated crossfit and its practitioners are. In fact, their website claims that crossfit’s “specialty is not specializing.” So,… there’s that… Which is weird.

This specific group of people are often associated with the paleo diet because it is regularly assigned as the best diet for those who want to excel in the crazy, sporadic, crossfit world. The problem with this custom is that now the paleo diet, in turn, has the negative, crazy, connotation of crossfit deeply associated with it. They’re almost synonymous because people who do crossfit are often heard discussing the positives of the paleo diet and the extremes they put themselves through to tone and build as much muscle as possible. I’ve heard it all, from people eating whole chickens for meals, or completely cutting out fruits because of the sugar content, or refusing to drink coffee…

Which iS FUCKING CRAZY!

That’s practically trespassing into insane territory for me. In fact, it’s dancing around, butt naked, high off of acid, insane territory.

Who doesn’t drink coffee?!

And alcohol?!

Ugh, people! I don’t think you understand. Wine is my blood.

IT’S GRAPES! FROM A BARREL!

The insanity!

Now, obviously, I’m not one to judge, ESPECIALLY since one of the fundamentals of the C.E.M. is to refrain from drinking your calories. Which certainly applies to alcohol and certain varieties of coffee. Certainly a cup of drip is okay. An espresso as well. A latte made with natural almond milk makes sense. Or even coconut milk to give it a little more flavor is alright. But that caramel frappaccino that has a minimum of 1,200 calories, which is almost equivalent to a Big Mac meal? You should probably stay away from that if you are trying to avoid excess fat production.

The bottom line is that the paleo diet is, at its true core, a healthy and sensible diet, designed specifically for bodily maintenance and comfort. There’s nothing extreme or unrealistic about it that places it under the category of a “fad” diet. It’s just a diet. It’s something that can easily be sustained. In my opinion, it’s actually easier than being vegetarian, or even vegan, and you never have to worry about the lack of a specific nutrient, because you’re not eliminating any food group that is dominant in that one tier. There are no unhealthy substitutes in the paleo diet. A person who is following the paleo diet doesn’t need worry about taking vitamins or extra pills to make up for the lack of nutrition from the eliminated foods. Where there are vegan-friendly butter and vegetable shortening to substitute for the real thing, those types of unhealthy alternatives do not exist within the realm of the paleo diet. Plus, the paleo diet is so versatile. There are so many different variants that no matter which one you choose, you’ll still be within the definition of what is considered paleo.

Paleo won’t judge you if you eat that fudge, because that fudge can be paleo.

Paleo won’t judge you if that you eat that cake, because that cake can be paleo.

Paleo won’t judge you if you eat that whole rack of ribs, because THAT SHITS PALEO!

Do you get my point?

Good.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s