1. Isn’t the Paleo diet all about meat?
A resounding ‘NO’. You can eat fruit and vegetables to your heart’s content!
Studying cultures which have eaten the Palaeolithic way in the last century show that the ratio of animal:plant food is unimportant (as long as you have a certain minimum of both). People living in the Arctic used to have meat/fish dominated diets, whereas people in the tropics ate more in the way of fruit and vegetables. Even though people in different parts of the globe had extremely different Paleo diets, they all still had a very low risk for Western diseases.
It is the absence of grains, refined sugar, refined oils and dairy products which matter more than the ratio of fish:meat:fruit:vegetables.
2. Are any grains allowed on the Paleo diet?
All grains are out.
What no wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, rice or quinoa? Here’s an explanation of why all grains are verboten.
3. Won’t I be hungry and constipated without bread and bran?
No. The Paleo diet is particularly satisfying on the hunger front. And fruit and vegetables are higher in fibre/gram of food than grains are, so you certainly won’t be missing out on fibre.
4. Aren’t grains and dairy essential foods?
No. You can get all your essential nutrients from vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, eggs and nuts.
5. Will I be calcium deficient or have weak bones if I cut out dairy?
Not if you follow a Paleo diet for most of the time – you absorb more calcium when your diet has fewer anti-nutrients, which are normally present in high quantities in grains. Plus you lose less calcium in your urine because of the changes in the ‘acid-base’ balance that occur with a Paleo diet. This post explains the whole dairy and calcium conundrum.
6. Will the Paleo diet raise my blood cholesterol and thus increase my risk for having a heart attack?
No, it won’t increase your cardiovascular risk, if anything it will reduce it. It might raise your ‘good cholesterol’ (aka HDL), but it will lower your levels of small dense LDL, which is the type associated with cardiovascular disease.
7. Aren’t nuts and seeds high in phytic acid?
Yes, they are high in phytic acid, so ideally one should soak them in water overnight – this considerably reduces their phytic acid content. Or else limit their consumption to 30g (1 ounce) a day. (In small amounts, phytic acid is fine; plus it is less damaging than gluten and WGA lectin are).
8. What about legumes?
Strictly speaking legumes aren’t allowed – because they are high in lectins and anti-nutrients. (Although soaking them helps). So ideally, no pulses, peanuts or beans. (Peanuts belong to the legume family, and not the nut family).
9. And soy?
If the soy is fermented – as in nato, miso or tempeh; then it seems to be fine. (Fermenting reduces the lectin and phytic acid content of soya). Here’s a detailed look at the dangers of unfermented soy.
10. Do I eat this way all the time?
No – but I did for the whole of January, and my fasting insulin level fell from 5.9 in December 2014 to 2.6 at the end of January 2015. (Normal range is 2.6 to 24 mIU/L, and it’s better to have a level at the lower end of the range. Higher levels correlate with increasing ‘insulin resistance‘ which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease).
Will I continue this way?
My aim now is to eat this way on weekdays, and allow myself a few non-Paleo treats on weekends.
(I plan on having a melting chocolate pudding every weekend. Maybe my next study on myself will be to maximise the number of chocolate puddings I can consume whilst still keeping my fasting insulin level low?).
Summary of what you shouldn’t be eating:
Grains, refined sugar, refined oil, legumes and dairy products.
And what you should be eating:
Vegetables, fruit, fish, eggs, unprocessed meat and nuts.