Paleo Diet | The Good - The Bad
The Paleo diet…
I have been asked extensively on my thoughts/tips/advice on the Paleo diet and I have tried it for a month before, so I feel I have some insight to give.
So, what is Paleo?
Paleo eating means anything that could be hunted or found – meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, and seeds. Sorry, the quinoa, rice, bread (even wholemeal) pasta, oats, and dairy have to go! Paleo goers eat:
Meat, not grain-fed.
Poultry - chicken, duck, hen, turkey
Oils - olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil
So unlike many other fad diets, this diet is actually full of nutritious, healthy foods. I like the way it educates people on the difference between processed and real food, and it really promotes eating more vegetables. I love to experiment with my diet as it is a great learning tool, so I gave it a go for a few weeks with my partner Scott.
Personally I/we found that:
- Because of not being able to consume grains and wholesome carbohydrates, we were having to eat way too much meat/poultry/fish which didn’t feel great. My joints started to ache and it affected our digestion badly (Scott did not get joint soreness).
- It caused extreme bloating and wind (for the whole 3-4 weeks!), perhaps because of the high protein and excessive vegetable and fibre intake. Fibre is GREAT, but an excess of it can cause serious stomach upsets, especially insoluble fibre.
- I actually started to get Carotenemia from the excess of vegetables, which I needed to fill me up with the absence of filling carbs (Carotenemia is a condition where the skin on your palms/feet develop a yellow tinge from excess carotene which is in spinach, broccoli and other greens, capsicum, carrots, sweet potato and more).
- Paleo eating also caused more skin breakouts personally.
- We were really lethargic and energy deprived, this is simply because of the lack of carbohydrates. We are both quite active, and we did not adapt to the low carb diet. Afternoon naps were a must!
- I felt pretty brain fogged at times, again because carbohydrates is the brain’s primary source of energy and I was not getting enough with all of the restrictions.
- Scott told me to add that I was a little moody!
- I put on weight (3kg, from the increase in fats and meats).
So basically, because of all the food group restrictions we were over eating vegetables, meats, nuts and fruit. This caused lethargy, less meal satisfaction, weight gain, and very bad digestion problems. These points were enough to make us go back to including rice, quinoa, lentils, wholemeal and sourdough breads & oats - back to eating a much more balanced diet. And everything stabilised and went back to normal in a couple of weeks.
If you feel happy and healthy on this diet and not eating wholesome carbs and dairy is not an issue for you, then great! *(but do take care of your calcium levels). Everybody is different. Some may feel okay on this low carb diet, the best way to find out is by experimenting with your food. But please read below.
This diet is possibly good for people who have an unhealthy diet or are overweight, and need some restrictions and rules in order to cut out the processed food from their diets and increase their vegetable intake. It is also a good way to learn about how to cook and eat more healthy wholefoods and eat less sugary processed foods.
On the other hand, for people who eat mostly whole foods and get enough fruit and veg (2-3 fruit a day, and 5 or more serves of veggies), don’t eat too much processed/packaged foods, and for people who practice balanced, moderated eating, I think taking on this diet would be a step backwards for their health. I also think this fad diet can lead towards eating disorders (ie: binge eating, orthorexia), because of the excessive rules and restrictions, some of which are unnecessary - rice, quinoa, wholegrain breads, oats, Greek yoghurt, fetta cheese, lentils ... just to name a few!
And yes, this is a fad diet. A fad diet is when ‘a particular food or food group is exaggerated and claims to cure specific diseases. When foods are eliminated from an individual’s diet because they are viewed as harmful, and when an emphasis is placed on eating certain foods to express a particular lifestyle.’
It’s easy to lose weight when certain food groups are prohibited, but the problem is that it is not sustainable and it gives people a bad relationship with food. I don’t believe people should have a list of banned foods in the back of their minds, especially perfectly healthy foods! Instead they should be knowledgeable about what foods generally aren’t great for you (muffins, potato chips, Tim Tams, donuts, chocolate, sweets, take out like Chinese, pizza, etc) keeping these foods limited and if consumed, only on occasion and in smaller amounts. Learning self control and balance within your diet is the key to weight maintenance and long term health.
Summary – I agree on the message of a diet full of wholefoods, but I don’t agree on cutting some of them out. I agree on eating less bagels, muffins, pizza, cake, chocolate, lollies, chips, biscuits ... der!! But banning rice, oats, quinoa, other filling wholegrains, wholemeal breads and all dairy doesn’t add up to me. Of course if you can’t tolerate dairy, are intolerant to gluten or some foods make you feel crappy when you eat them, then don’t eat them! Otherwise, don’t fall for all this hype. Grains are not poison. Over-eating, processed foods full of fat and sugar and processed meats are what you should be cautious of.