lunes, 17 de octubre de 2016

When Paleo isn't Paleo

The world of health and fitness is often very similar to the world of fashion. Each year there is a must have food and/or diet and then eventually they will fade into obscurity, replaced by another diet, sometimes to reemerge a few years later. I often wonder what happened to the Metabolic Typing Diet. When I first left university and ventured into the world of fitness training this was THE diet to follow according to certain fitness "experts". Of course, it came and went, it was replaced by the Alkaline Diet, Zone Diet, Blood Type diet, the Fasting Diet, and the reemergence of the Atkins Diet, tweaked and now called LCHF, so on and so on. As I've said before in our Alkaline Diet post, a lot, if not the majority of these diets can be dismissed as nonsense, the Blood Type Diet being a good example, however, there are some of these diets that are actually OK. A good example of these is the Alkaline diet, in terms of the actual content of the diet anyway, not the reasons they give for following it.

Another good example is the Paleo diet. Taken at first glance, the Paleo diet consists of everything that the human would eat in their natural environment, so, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. This is a sound base for any diet and we also recommend that the majority of our patients' diets are made up of fresh produce and to try and limit man made or processed products as much as possible. The idea behind Paleo is that we humans made a mistake by starting agriculture, that is farming grains, making breads etc. and that we should have stuck to our "natural" diet. There are arguments both for and against this and as I've said before the actual content of the Paleo diet or at least the idea behind it isn't too bad, if a little impractical. I always think that there must have been a reason why we went from hunter-gatherer to farmer, less chance of starving to death was probably a major factor. However, now food is abundant (in the western world at least) maybe going "back to the primitive" is a good idea.

The problem I have with the Paleo diet and to be honest nearly all diets, is not the actual diets themselves but the tsunami of products that are targeted at followers of that particular diet. By it's very nature the Paleo diet should be fairly simple to follow. Putting aside the issue of organic for one moment, you should be able to go to the supermarket and buy your food from the fresh produce aisles only. Obviously things become a little more difficult and not to mention expensive when you factor in organic produce. Of course, we promote organic, local and seasonal where possible but we have to be aware that not everyone has the budget  for that.

The question followers of the Paleo diet have to ask is, is my diet really Paleo?

If we are to be strict about it, the Paleo diet will not have any of the following

  • Tea and Coffee
  • Alcohol 
  • Oils
  • Sugar 
  • Flours and breads (all types)
  • Salt and therefore 
  • Processed and/or cured meats
  • Dairy 
  • Dairy alternatives such as almond milk, soy milk etc. 
  • Chocolate
  • Sauces 
  • Sports nutrition products 
  • Any liquid that isn't water 

All of the above have come about from the human moving away from hunter-gatherer and towards agriculture. Paleo human would have only eaten what they dug up from the earth, picked from a tree, hunted or scavenged. However, after a quick google search for Paleo products, top of the list is a  website that recommends 23 "paleo products" you have to try and they include,

  • Bacon (not Paleo)
  • Prosciutto (basically bacon so not Paleo)
  • Coconut oil (not Paleo)
  • Coconut and almond flours (not Paleo) 
  • Butter and Ghee (not Paleo) 
  • Sparkling water (not Paleo) 
  • Tea (not Paleo) 
Things get really amusing when you browse through the enormous list of Paleo protein bars and Paleo protein powders! Maybe I'm wrong but I'm fairly certain that archaeologists are yet to find any fossilised protein shakers from the Paleolithic period. Just because a bar contains dried fruit instead of sugar or a powder is using hemp protein instead of whey, the fact it is a processed man made product means it is NOT Paleo. The same can be said for flours and oils, almond flour is still a flour, it's processed, as is coconut or any other oil. 

So What?

Who cares right? Maybe I am just being pedantic but this where my issue with "diets" comes from. The food and supplement companies are not stupid and they can spot a gold mine when they see one. They know that if they slap the word Paleo on the wrapper of a product they can hike the price up and people will pay it, especially as the Paleo diet is known for not being cheap and so people already expect to pay a bit more. But if you are buying any of those products you are not following a Paleo diet you are paying over the odds for products that you could buy ordinarily at a fraction of the price.  

It boils down to the question of why are you following the Paleo diet? If you really want to eat like a cave man/woman then unfortunately anything off that list above is out of bounds. Or if you simply want to decrease the amount of processed or man made foods in your diet you can do so without having to buy overpriced products. 

Our advice is, buy local, buy seasonal and avoid anything that has Paleo on the wrapper!  

If you want any help or advice regarding Paleo or any diet, drop a comment below or contact us on Facebook/Twitter or 


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