Tag Archives: carbohydrate

The Paleo Diet Digest

FAQJust choosing the diet you want to follow can be a tough choice when there are so many options and opinions being thrown at you from the news, internet and your friends. So, if you’ve made the choice to go with the Paleo Diet® the last thing you want to now deal with is different answers to what the diet is and how to follow it.

Here’s the ten most common questions we’ve been asked by people interested in the diet but still trying to figure out what it’s all about. We’ll give you our take on each.

And yes, we’re sure you’re going to hear other opinions. Someone has probably already told you that ghee is Paleo or you need to drink milk to get your calcium. All we can say in response is that we are the originators of the Paleo Diet. Our founder, Dr Loren Cordain, wrote The Paleo Diet which defined the diet. So, while we’re always open to discussion and debate, when it comes to defining the Paleo Diet, we are technically the only ones who can give you these answers.

We truly hope this answers your questions!

— The Paleo Diet Team

1. Can I be Paleo if I’m vegetarian?
Vegetarian Diet | The Paleo Diet
The simple answer is no. We are designed to be omnivores and there are essential nutrients that we can only get from animal sources. That said, we do understand that some people don’t want to eat meat for ethical reasons. We admire those choices and will always strive to help those of you to eat as healthy a diet as possible. To get you started check out:

Transitioning from vegetarian to Paleo
Vegetarian and vegan diets: nutritional disasters

2. How fast will I lose weight on Paleo?
It’s hard to say as this depends on your current diet. However, we don’t think of diets just in terms of losing weight, nor do we consider rapid weight loss to be healthy. We prefer looking at The Paleo Diet as a way of life and investing in your overall health. Achieving a healthy weight is just a consequence of eating a healthy diet. Here’s a few articles about losing weight on a Paleo Diet:

Weight loss on a Paleo Diet
Lose weight and keep it off

3. Are gluten-free grains Paleo?
No, they are not. All grains are excluded from the Paleo Diet due to their low nutrient density and high content of many anti-nutrients including saponins and lectins in many grains. Check out these articles to read a little more about grains:

The gluten-free trend and its implications for Paleo
Millet: a gluten-free grain you should avoid
Quinoa and saponins: Dr.-Cordain responds to a reader’s questions

How do I get enough calcium on Paleo?
The Paleo Diet® is nutritionally balanced, in line with the optimal nutrient ratios eaten by our Paleolithic ancestors. The only nutrient where the Paleo Diet does not meet the RDA guidelines is calcium, however, Dr Cordain has already demonstrated that those levels of calcium are not achievable on a natural diet. Yet our ancestors showed no signs of osteoporosis. Likewise, the recent increased rates in heart disease in women has been at least partially attributed to excess calcium intake. Here’s a little more information about calcium:

How to get enough calcium
September series: all about calcium
Promoting calcium balance health on a Paleo Diet (easier than you think)

5. Is Paleo low carbohydrate/high protein & fat?
While it is a lower carbohydrate diet than a typical Western diet, it is not a very low carbohydrate diet. The bulk of the food you eat are fruits and vegetables. These contain plenty of carbohydrates. More importantly, on a healthy Paleo Diet, the focus is on eating the right foods and not on macronutrient ratios. Learn a little more about our thoughts on macronutrient ratios:

Forget the macronutrient ratios: you are what you were designed to eat
Nutrition divided: low-fat vs. high-fat diet
Do low carb diets really provide better weight loss?

6. How will I get enough fiber without grains?
Cereal Grains | The Paleo DietThe best diets are about a mix of the right foods that provide the nutrients you need instead of looking for some “super-food” that’s high in fiber or some other nutrient. Fruits and vegetables, which are the bulk of your food on a Paleo Diet, all contain fiber and will not only meet your daily requirements, but provide them over the course of the day.

Forget the macronutrient ratios: you are what you were designed to eat

7. What is the Paleo diet?
Foods in a Healthy Paleo DietThe Paleo Diet® is eating the foods that humans have evolved to eat. Here’s a few good summaries of the Paleo Diet to get you started:

The Paleo Diet premise
The Paleo Diet: designed by nature, built by science

8. What to eat and not to eat on the Paleo diet?
Eat the foods that are most similar to the natural foods available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. This includes fruits, vegetables, sea food, eggs, grass-fed free-range lean meats, and nuts sparingly. These also happen to be the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. Here’s a few guides to help you pick what you should eat:

What to eat on the Paleo Diet?
Your Paleo answers – most common FAQ about the Paleo Diet
Debunking the biggest myths about the Paleo Diet

9. How do I stay Paleo when eating out?
Pre-packed Airport SnackPlanning is key. Look up the menu beforehand. Salads with grilled meats, vegetable dishes, and lean meats are good options. Most restaurants will consider your needs so ask them to exclude ingredients that are not Paleo. When all fails follow the 85-15 rule. Following the Paleo Diet 85 percent of the time will still allow your body to experience the metabolic and physiologic benefits it offers. This rule permits you flexibility to eat differently 15 percent of the time, or roughly three meals over the course of a week. All that being said, travel can be particularly difficult, so here’s a few articles to help:

Staying on track with the Paleo Diet while traveling
Hunter-gatherers in flight: how to pack, snack, and forage strict-Paleo when traveling by air

10. Is ghee butter, goat’s milk, coffee, and beer Paleo?
Ghee | Paleo DietNone of these are Paleo, thought coffee is in a bit of a grey area. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t ever enjoy them. That’s why we have the 85-15 rule. Here’s a series of articles on frequently asked about foods that generally are not Paleo:

Coffee drinking revisited: its not Paleo but are there any therapeutic benefits?
The truth about the coffee-cancer link
Coffee: is it Paleo?
How Paleo is beer and mead?
The Paleo Diet, alcohol consumption and sulfites in wine, beer, and food
Gee, what’s the skinny on ghee?
Dairy: milking it for all it’s worth
Hormones in milk

The weight loss and short-term health gains experienced by many Paleo devotees can obscure the diet’s longer-term positive health benefits.

The greatest rewards for dedicated Paleo adherents may come well after the initial excitement wanes. As they head into their 80s and 90s (and beyond), devotees have every reason to expect abnormally healthy “platinum years.”

Sadly, they may watch their non-Paleo friends and family succumb over time to common “normal” (and supposedly age-related) illnesses like:

  1. Obesity and metabolic syndrome
  2. Cancer
  3. Diabetes
  4. Heart disease
  5. Stroke
  6. MS, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease
  7. Alzheimer’s and dementia


Lengthy periods of morbidity and disability often precede death with these conditions. The unwary may spend years unable to care for themselves, incurring huge expenses in assisted living, nursing facilities, or even at home.

Data from the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance show that the longest active long-term care insurance claim is 20 years, 9 months as of 12/31/17, with paid benefits at $2.6 million.

Extended long-term care episodes sharply diminish life quality, dignity, independence, and family coherence — even as each passing year becomes irreplaceable. 

Alzheimer’s and other dementias often require the longest and costliest care  — including memory care at specialized facilities. 

Even worse, the strong cultural message remains: there is no way out.


Rejecting a Disease-Centric Mindset

Most American and European seniors are groomed from infancy to accept chronic, debilitating disease as a fact of life. 

Central to this acculturation is the idea that they are helpless in the face of encroaching disease — and that “no one really knows” why, or when, health will suddenly fail.

When it does, they resign themselves to invasive, demeaning, or largely palliative interventions, becoming perpetual patients. Their diseases — and treatments — define the remaining years of their lives.

The Alzheimer’s diagnosis weighs heaviest in this illness-centric mindset. The bleak prospect of an irreversible, incurable, unstoppable and ultimately fatal disease — with uncertain years of increasing mental absence — crushes most families.

A parallel tragedy is the almost complete lack of public awareness that it may not have to be this way, that Alzheimer’s etiology is increasingly well-understood, and that dietary and lifestyle changes can actually arrest or reverse dementia symptoms.


The Paleo Diet® Connection to Diabetes Type 3 (Alzheimer’s)

Paleo dieters initially lose weight, gain energy, and boost health due to:

  1. Reduced or resolved intestinal permeability
  2. Decreased systemic inflammation
  3. Normalized insulin sensitivity


Their new lifestyle free of grains, legumes, refined carbohydrates, sugars, industrially processed seed oils, and other unhealthy additives quickly relieves chronically stressed digestive and endocrine systems.

Nutrient-dense lean meats, sufficient healthy fats, micronutrient-rich vegetables, and fruit then help the body repair (and literally rebuild) itself according to its original genetic design.

Dieters can make surprising and dramatic progress — resolving or abating serious health problems, including autoimmune and metabolic disorders. Many Type 2 diabetics report improvement, and this same success may now extend to dementia and Alzheimer’s (known to researchers — if not family physicians — as Type 3 diabetes for years).

A growing body of knowledge shows that insulin resistance, the main driver of diabetes, may also contribute to cognitive impairment.


Carbohydrates as Cognitive Culprits

In 2012, the study Relative Intake of Macronutrients Impacts Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or Dementia linked high-carbohydrate diets and MCI. It also states that diets high in fat and protein may protect against this condition. The study shows how high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diets create advanced glycation end products (AGEs), increase oxidative stress, and contribute to amyloid plaque buildup in the brain. (These accumulated plaques are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s).

See also this current Washington Times article by cardiologist Eric Thorn, entitled Carbohydrates Are Killing Us. Dr. Thorn clearly and succinctly discusses the carbohydrate/diabetes connection, and real-world success with his own patients.


More Recent Looks at Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

In 2016, Unraveling Alzheimer’s: Making Sense of the Relationship Between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease, examined several theories including the idea that insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE), which regulates plasma insulin levels and reduces amyloid plaques in the brain, is made unavailable by sub-optimal blood glucose management, contributing to the gradual onset of Alzheimer’s (not necessarily concurrently with diabetes).

The 2018 study, HbA1c, Diabetes and Cognitive Decline: The English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, examined how blood glucose issues and insulin resistance pathology relate to cognitive problems.

Though a dense read for non-scientists, this study concludes:

“…our study provides evidence to support the association of diabetes with subsequent cognitive decline. Moreover, our findings show a linear correlation between circulating Hba1c levels and cognitive decline, regardless of diabetic status.” (Emphasis added.)

Note that both studies imply that elevated blood sugar, over time, can lead directly to Alzheimer’s without manifesting first as Type 2 diabetes.

If Alzheimer’s can actually be viewed, and treated, as diet-induced insulin- resistance within the brain, what would treatment look like?


A Unique (and Effective) Diet-and-Lifestyle therapy

The 2014 UCLA study, Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A Novel Therapeutic Program, is still mostly unknown outside the research and ancestral diet communities. Though small in scope, and not a traditional double-blind clinical trial, the actual results of each included case study are clear enough to demand replication. Dr. Loren Cordain gives an excellent overview of this pivotal study here. The broad outlines of the therapies studied are very congruent with the paleo diet and lifestyle. Results were impressive, with 90 percent of participants showing improvement. The study itself is relatively easy for non-scientists to read through, due in part to its use of diet and life strategies as primary curatives. The first change on the list of therapies:

“Patients [are] given [a] choice of several low glycemic, low inflammatory, low grain diets,” in order to “minimize inflammation, minimize insulin resistance.”

Other modalities used include stress reduction, sleep improvement, exercise, intermittent fasting, and extensive dietary supplementation to optimize brain function. Diet changes included increasing fruits and vegetables, and avoiding farmed fish. Participants tailored their own diets, including grass-fed beef and organic chicken.

Discussing results, the study says, “Results from the 10 patients reported here suggest that memory loss in patients with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, and at least the early phases of Alzheimer’s disease, may be reversed, and improvement sustained, with the therapeutic program described here.”

Only one test subject with late-stage Alzheimer’s did not respond to therapy.

90 percent success, even given the small number of subjects, simply cannot be ignored. This study cries out for for large-scale, double blind replication.

The 10 percent failure rate tells its own story: reversing advanced Alzheimer’s may not be within reach.

Better not to let it get that far.


Seniors Considering the Paleo Diet Should Not Hesitate

It’s clear that the modern Western diet, sugar-heavy and high in processed carbohydrates, wreaks havoc on blood glucose levels. The resulting insulin resistance has many pernicious effects on our health.

Seniors have been set up for health failure by a lifetime of unconsidered eating and questionable mainstream dietary advice. They will feel the consequences sooner than most.

Alzheimer’s and other lingering, purportedly “incurable” or “irreversible” conditions can empty their pocketbooks and reduce their lives to the four walls of a nursing home suite if they don’t take quick action.

First and foremost, they should revert to the Paleo diet enjoyed by their pre-agrarian ancestors. The worst that can happen is losing a few pounds and improving overall health.


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