Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's the Deal with the Paleo Diet?

Today I want to offer my two cents on one of the hottest debated topics in the world of health and fitness. 

The Paleo Diet.

Well, let’s take a step back and talk about the Paleo Diet a bit first.

What exactly is the Paleo Diet?

To really simplify it, the idea is to eat like our ancestors who ate a lot less processed foods than we do in modern day America.

Digging a little deeper, there are some simple guidelines about what foods to choose and those to avoid (this list below is from a popular Paleo Diet website). 

Eat:

·         Fruits

·         Veggies

·         Lean Meat

·         Seafood

·         Nuts and Seeds

·         Health Fats

And Avoid:

·         Dairy

·         Grains

·         Processed Foods and Sugar

·         Legumes

·         Starches

·         Alcohol

Similar lists are out there that are even a bit more restrictive (eat fruit, but only berries, veggies are okay, except for nightshades, like eggplant and tomatoes, etc).

So let’s first talk about all we agree with

Because at the end of the day, 90% of nutrition experts agree on most nutrition habits.  What’s funny is everyone always wants to focus on the little part where there is a discrepancy.

I’m 100% on board with all those foods above to include on the list above as a majority of the diet.

However there are a few in the "avoid" column I absolutely believe are fantastic for you.

To be honest, the only one I completely agree with being on the list to avoid is processed foods and sugar.  The devil is in the details.

Dairy certainly has some great nutrients.  Cottage cheese & Greek yogurt, for example — two easy and fantastic sources of protein that work great in meals or as snacks.  Grains, same thing – lots of benefits when you choose the right types … and that’s the REAL issue.  Grains offer a ton of fiber and other nutrients.  Sure, most people do eat too many grains and, well, the "grains" they choose often are not high fiber grains.  Again, grains are the issue, the QUALITY of the grains is the issue.

I’m a fans of quality, fibrous grains in the right portions.  Same with legumes, which are a great source of fiber too.

The bottom line really, is people want to make nutrition black or white, and identify a food or food group as good or bad.

Nutrition is not black or white. 

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t some great benefits to be had by replacing less processed foods with more whole foods.  Of course there are and we love that about the "Paleo Diet" approach.  Less processed foods, more of a ‘clean’ diet for lack of a better term.

We’ve been "preaching" nutrition quality over nutrition quantity for years. 

Where we don’t agree are in some of the details. 

Alcohol for example – if caveman had beer, I can assure you they would drink it! 

Joking aside, alcohol does have some health benefits if you drink in moderation.  Of course beans and the right grains all have great nutrients.  Same with dairy, if there are no allergies.

Anytime an entire food group is demonized or completely off limits, the diet itself has limitations.

There are no miracle diets.

There are not evil food groups.

There is no magic food(s) that boost fat loss.

My goal is to guide people to make smarter food choices most of the time, which is why I LOVE the 90/10 principle.  Focus your efforts on a nutrition regimen that is clean 90% of the time, and then enjoy what you want 10% of the time.  It works beautifully!

My desire is to teach people how to make smart choices when faced with challenging situations. 

There’s NO NEED to preach to the world how this is the RIGHT or BEST way to eat, and act like somehow that’s the gospel on nutrition. 

There are a lot of approaches that work — "Paleo" might work for you, though a true nutrition expert can guide people to make appropriate choices for their lifestyle. 

Though telling people not to eat X or Y, limit only specific foods because a food causes some type of issue/symptoms is easier than teaching …

… and it’s not a solution that can last.

"Give a woman fish and feed her for a day.  Teach a woman how to fish and feed her for a lifetime."

There is much that we agree with, but be leery of the guy preaching that his way is the ONLY way.