Tag Archives: Paleo Diet

Walking around the supermarket, it does not take long to notice that there is a “low fat” or “fat-free” alternative near almost every available option. When you are starting a new diet, it may be tempting to purchase these items. After all, you are trying to lose fat, so it would make sense to eat less of it, right?

While that reasoning may seem to make sense, it is actually unsupported by the evidence. There is scientific evidence that eating a high-fat diet can contribute to weight loss, as seen by researchers at Harvard. Additional studies have been conducted in recent years that add even more fuel to the fat-burning fire. So, where did all the hatred of fat come from?

The “Fat Is Bad” Myth

Way back in the 1970s, America was facing a wake-up call. Members of Congress came together to rally against high-fat diets, largely due to the fact that their colleagues were prematurely dying of heart attacks. The science of that day and age pointed to saturated fats as a primary cause of heart disease. These facts were backed up by Nathan Pritikin, a health whiz who advocated that heart disease could be reversed, as long as people were willing to change their lifestyles.

However, back then we did not have the thorough understanding of biological processes that we do today. Many people heard that fat was bad and subsequently attempted to remove it from their diets entirely. One of the goals Congress set out was for people to eat more carbs. What they intended was for people to eat complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, the reality was starkly different.

The market responded to these calls to reduce fat by creating new lines of fat-free or low-fat products. Fat provides a lot of flavor in the foods we eat. When you remove fats, you have to replace it with something else, and that replacement came in the form of sugar. Many believe that this fat-reducing phase of the American diet largely contributed to rising levels of obesity and diabetes. It turns out that removing fat from your diet can cause weight gain, doesn’t significantly reduce your chances of heart disease, and will not help you lose weight.  

Why Fat Is Good for Your Body

The truth is, there are several kinds of fat: trans fats, saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats. Trans fats are bad for your body, and along with saturated fats were the ones that Congress really meant for us to reduce. Foods that contain trans fats increase harmful blood cholesterol levels (LDLs) while decreasing the good blood cholesterols (HDLs). Today, we realize there is no safe level of consumption of trans fats — for every 2% of your diet that is made up of this type of fat, your chances of heart disease increase by 23%.

Saturated fats are another type of fat that should be eliminated. Experts recommend that less than 10% of your daily calories come from saturated fat sources. In large doses, saturated fats can increase LDLs. However, there is no conclusive evidence at this time suggesting that saturated fats cause heart disease.

However, there are studies that show replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can reduce your risk of heart disease. The unsaturated fats are the “good for you” guys of the fat world. These fats are liquid at room temperature, unlike their counterparts. These fats raise triglyceride levels while lowering LDL levels. Your body uses these fats as a source of fuel, so they are important to incorporate into your diet.

Incorporating Healthy Fats Into Your Diet

Healthy fats can help you lose weight, among other important health benefits. Instead of avoiding all fats, you should focus on how you can incorporate healthy fats from natural sources into your diet. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can come from natural sources.

Oils and nuts are generally good sources of monounsaturated fats. Healthy oils like olive oil are good sources of monounsaturated fats as well as nuts and avocados. As an added benefit, incorporating healthy oils into your diet will help you feel full and satisfied at the end of a meal. As a result, you eat less and weight begins to fall off.

Good sources of polyunsaturated fats include the heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6 oils found in seafood, nuts, and some oils. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6. These fats are essential to our bodies, yet we cannot make them. We need them in order to function, to create cell membranes, to move our muscles, and to combat inflammation.

The Paleo diet is a natural diet that incorporates healthy fats. This diet focuses on natural, unprocessed foods that promote overall wellness. Research has shown that low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets like the Paleo diet can speed up weight loss, reduce chronic inflammation, and ultimately lead to you feeling better in general. For more information about the Paleo diet and how it could help you, visit us today. Be sure to check out our Paleo recipes for easy ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet!

 

Science is a constantly changing and evolving field. That’s why we live in a world of “theories” and avoid the term “fact.” After all, even Newton’s LAW of gravity was disproved.

So, it’s exciting when a discovery is made that updates or challenges our theories. And lately the media has been abuzz because that’s exactly what a team led by Dr Amaia Arranz-Otaegui did with our understanding of bread. Analyzing food remains in a 14,000 year-old fire pit left by Natufian hunter-gatherers northeast of Jordan, Arranz-Otaegui’s team found charred remains of bread-like food. [1] Before this discovery, it was believed that bread entered the human diet with the invention of agriculture in the Neolithic era approximately 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. [2] This new discovery shows that humans were eating bread at least 4,000 years before that.

Analysis of the 24 bread-like food particles indicated it was a flat bread (due to smaller air pockets.) The particles were composed of einkorn wheat (a wild wheat), barley, club-rush tubers and possibly rye, millets or oat. It was clear the grains had been de-husked, crushed, milled, and sieved repeatedly. In short, the bread had required extensive production by these ancient bakers.

 

Is This a Game-Changer?

Many in the media have been saying this discovery is evidence that bread can now be added to the Paleo Diet because it shows that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were also bakers. That’s a game-changer if it’s true. But before we start making major changes to the Paleo Diet website, let’s dig a little deeper into this discovery.

First, let’s point out the obvious. The 14,000-year-old bread was from the Epipaleolithic Time. A period that marks the tail end of the Paleolithic era (which started 2.5 million years ago) and preceded the Neolithic era. As the name implies, some consider the Epi-Paleolithic era a transition period after the true Paleolithic era ended about 20,000 years ago. [3]

So technically, the discovery may not even be Paleo. But let’s assume for a minute that Dr Arranz-Oteagui’s team didn’t find the very first bread ever made and perhaps bread production pre-dates this discovery by another 4-6,000 years – before the end of the Paleolithic era.

When Loren Cordain, Boyd Eaton and other originators of the Paleo Diet started developing the concept, they talked more about a “natural ancestral human diet based on evolutionary trends.”

Needless to say, Dr Cordain’s publishers didn’t find that very catchy. “Paleo” sounded better and fit well because most of the evolutionary changes that defined our natural diet occurred over the 2.5 million years of the Palaeolithic era. But the name and particular period were less important than when these key evolutionary changes occurred. Meaning, whether bread consumption technically overlapped with the Paleolithic era is irrelevant. What’s important is the potential evolutionary impact. And while this is still a debated point, it appears that anatomically and behaviourally modern humans appeared between 200,000 and 40,000 years ago.[3]

In other words, from an evolutionary perspective, the difference between eating bread 9,000 years ago vs even 20,000 to 25,000 years ago is a rounding error. There are many things that are exciting about the discovery of 14,000-year-old bread, but not for an evolutionary biologist.

 

Was Bread Even a Staple 14,000 Years Ago?

If you told your doctor you ate pizza and hamburgers every night but had some broccoli last Wednesday, I’m sorry to tell you that your doctor isn’t going to note that you “eat a healthy vegetable-based diet.”

The question remains, what were the primary foods in the Natufians’ diet?

Hunter-gatherers constantly faced the dangers of caloric deficits – not consuming as many calories as they expended. Put another way, they had to avoid foods that required more calories to collect and prepare than they provided, a concept known as optimal foraging theory. [4, 5] As a result, Arranz-Otaegui points out that because of the significant production cost of the bread, it was likely a “special food” reserved for occasions like impressing guests. Evidenced by the fact that of the 60,000 plant-based food particles found in the fire pit, only a few hundred were from bread-like foods.

The Natufians, according to Arranz-Otaegui’s team, ate game meat (bones of gazelles, sheep and hares were found throughout the fire pit) and “small-seeded grasses, fruit and nuts. and root foods.”

All of this led her to conclude:

The available archaeobotanical evidence for the Natufian period indicates that cereal exploitation was not common during this time, and it is most likely that cereal-based meals like bread become staples only when agriculture was firmly established.

 

What Was Game-Changing About this Discovery?

14,000-year-old bread would have had no impact on our evolution or our definition of a true ancestral diet – especially when you consider it was not a staple in hunter-gatherers’ diets. But that doesn’t mean this wasn’t an important discovery.

What is ground-breaking about this discovery is that it flips a commonly held belief on its head –that agriculture was invented first and then humans figured out baking. This study supports the notion that bread pre-dates agriculture. But that notion does make some intuitive sense. It’s highly unlikely our ancestors would not have undertaken the process of domesticating wheat if that had not first experimented with the end-product.

 

References

1. Arranz-Otaegui, A., et al., Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2018. 115(31): p. 7925-7930.

2. Popova, T., Bread remains in archaeological contexts, in Southeast Europe and Anatolia in Prehistory Essays in Honor of Vassil Nikolov on His 65th Anniversary, G.R. Bacvarov K, Editor. p. 519-526.

3. Eaton, S.B., M. Konner, and M. Shostak, Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective. Am J Med, 1988. 84(4): p. 739-49.

4. Cordain, L., The Paleo diet : lose weight and get healthy by eating the foods you were designed to eat. Rev. ed. 2011, Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. xv, 266 p.

5. Pyke, G.H., Optimal foraging theory – a critical review. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1984. 15: p. 523-575.

 

How does a poke bowl sound right about now?  

Let’s start with what it is, exactly: Poke is a raw fish salad served as an appetizer in Hawaiian cuisine, and sometimes as a main course (1).

When out and about, it can be tough to find viable options that will fit into your authentic paleo regime, so when something does come across our radar, it’s easy to jump right in.

But before you pick up your chopsticks, it’s worth taking the time to consider a few key factors.

In this case of the poke bowl, let’s call them the three “S’s”

Sourcing
Where exactly is the tuna coming from? In the US, we’re spoiled these days; we can purchase organic blueberries from Chile in the middle of winter and grass-fed lamb from New Zealand. Sure, “organic” and “grass-fed” are two descriptors we want to strive for, but to ignore from where they came would be remiss. Similarly, unless you happen to be physically located somewhere that wild tuna actually swims, not considering the carbon footprint of eating tuna is irresponsible. In addition, even if you are in Hawaii or Fiji, be mindful not to overdo the consumption of this big fish; putting oneself at risk for mercury contamination is serious business (2).

Soy
An authentic preparation of the sauce used to prepare poke includes soy sauce. Don’t make the mistake of thinking gluten-free soy sauce is a viable alternative. Even Tamari contains soy and soy is one of the most inflammatory food byproducts we can eat (3).

Starch
The other key ingredient in a poke bowl is rice.  Despite it being a gluten-free grain, it’s still a grain and as such, still inflammatory, contributing to leaky gut.

So does this all mean that the idea of eating a poke bowl must become ancient history??

Not by a long shot!

With a few tweaks, you can easily create your own version and not just at home, but even when dining out.

Here’s how:

  1. Determine the sourcing and find creative alternatives.   While wild salmon would not be as authentic in terms of mimicking the original version of a poke bowl, if you’re in Oregon and it’s coho season, keeping it local best serves everyone- the fish, the planet and us!
  2. Peruse the menu, or the market for alternatives to the traditional bowl of rice. Any leafy green, finely shredded and tossed with olive oil and lime then tossed with avocado chucks makes for a deliciously savory bed for fresh, sashimi grade fish.
  3. Last but not least, the big question: H  how can you call it a poke bowl if there’s no poke sauce? Easy!  Skip the soy sauce and focus on flavors made from healthier options commonly found in island cuisine:  sesame, ginger and even Chinese 5-spice.


Not convinced?

See for yourself: test out my simple recipe for DIY Poke Bowl recipe that is, geared toward what you have in your very own backyard.

INGREDIENTS

  •    1 pound wild, local, sashimi grade fish (check MSC for your best options)
  •    1 bunch collard greens
  •    1 bunch kale
  •    Freshly squeezed lime juice
  •    2 Tablespoons olive oil
  •    Sesame oil to taste
  •    2 tsp sesame seeds
  •    2 sheets Nori

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Dice fish into 1/2” cubes
  2. Wash collards and kale and roll sideways to form a roll
  3. Thinly slice to create ribbon shape
  4. Place in large, flat bowl
  5. Combine lime juice and olive oil with sesame oil
  6. Reserve half and pour other half over leaves
  7. Combine diced fish with remaining half
  8. Portion into four plates
  9. Garnish with sesame seeds and torn piece of Nori
  10.  Serve immediately


Thyroid health boosting tip:  adding some seaweed into your repertoire is the best way to incorporate dietary iodine.   Why does this matter? In order to keep our thyroid healthy, we need to balance out the sulfur we get from all the crucifers and we achieve this by adding in iodine, from sea veggies, the #1 best choice!

References

(1)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poke_(fish_salad)

(2)  http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mercury-and-health

(3)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3727642/

 

Our Paleolithic ancestors had to sprint to survive; to fend off predators or to hunt their prey. The “fight or flight” response (and thus sprinting) is one of our most primal survival mechanisms. It’s hardwired into our DNA. Today, we’ve unfortunately outsourced most of our daily movement to cars, trains, and escalators, and we remain sedentary most of the day. Our bodies adapted to this frequent high-intensity fight or flight response and may very well have learned to need it. Today, most people simply don’t get enough movement in their day and it comes at a steep cost for your health.

Over 400 million people around the world suffer from type-2 diabetes (T2D) and almost 50% of the current population in America is classified as pre-diabetic or diabetic [1,2].  While the standard American diet – calorie-dense, nutrient-poor, hyper-palatable processed foods – is an overwhelming culprit, physical inactivity also has a key role [3]. A recent 10-year follow-up study of intensive lifestyle modifications – which included regular exercise – lowered the incidence of diabetes (type-2) by 34% in highrisk adults, which was twice as effective as the standard metformin drug therapy [4 ].

Movement is an integral part of a Paleo lifestyle. If moderate intensity exercise supports improved blood sugar control, how would high-intensity movements like sprinting impact glycemic control? Children spend their days running around the house or playing games, yet as we get older we lose connection with this fundamental primal movement.

Can sprinting help to reverse type-2 diabetes? Interestingly, a growing body of research has investigated the effects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on T2D. (Note – Sprinting falls under the banner of HIIT training, as do sprints on a bike, Tabata-style workouts, etc.)

 

HIIT & Diabetes (Type-2)

The term high-intensity can scare people off, but the good news is that it’s relative to your own fitness level. For example, a recent study examined the effects of HIIT training (10 sets @60s x3 weekly) over eight weeks in 50-year old, non-active type-2 diabetics versus healthy controls. Researchers found the diabetic group significantly improved glucose control and insulin sensitivity, as well as pancreatic beta-cell function, and experienced significant loses in pro-inflammatory abdominal adiposity [5]. Post-menopausal women with T2D engaging in two sessions per week over 16 weeks (with no concomitant caloric reduction) experienced more significant reductions in belly-fat compared to traditional steady-state cardio [6]. Even just two weeks of HIIT training showed positive health benefits for people with T2D and improvements in insulin resistance from pre- to post-training period [7].

A recent meta-analysis of over 50 studies found a superior reduction in insulin resistance following HIIT compared to both control and steady-state training. Although it should be noted that continuous aerobic training is still highly effective at reducing insulin resistance. It has demonstrated results that are comparable to HIIT. It just requires a much greater time commitment. Another meta-analysis concluded… “exercise at higher intensity may offer superior fitness benefits and… optimize reductions in HbA1C% (a 3-month average of blood sugar control)” [8,9,10].

 

HIIT & Diabetes (Type-2) Risk Factors

Type-2 diabetics are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The first study that was able to demonstrate improvements in cardiac structure and function, along with the greatest reduction in liver fat. It used HIIT training (2-3-minute intervals x5 over 12 weeks). The authors concluded,HIIT should be considered by clinical care teams as a therapy to improve cardiometabolic risk in patients with type 2 diabetes” [11].

 

HIIT & Time Efficiency

It looks like HIIT training may provide an effective strategy for reversing T2D, but the question remains; how do you get people to stick with it? Most people know exercise is good for them, but they decide (often subconsciously) not to engage in it.

Why? The number one reason is people say they “don’t have time.” No problem, HIIT training provides the perfect solution.

Dr. Martin Gibala PhD, a world-renown expert in HIIT from McMaster University in Canada, recently compared the benefits of 3 minutes of exercise per week (yes… 3 minutes for the entire week!) versus the traditional recommendations of 150 minutes per week of exercise on fitness. His research team found that the HIIT group improved their fitness to the same degree as the continuous aerobic group after the 12-week intervention [12]. Looks like time is no longer an excuse (everyone has 3 minutes per week).

Sprinting is a fundamental primal movement. It’s deeply ingrained in our DNA, performed effortlessly when we’re children and the research supports its use (i.e HIIT) as an effective strategy for helping to reverse T2D symptoms and reduce cardiovascular disease risk. HIIT is time efficient, highly rewarding and best of all… it’s fun!

 

References

1. Retrieved from – //www.who.int/diabetes/global-report/en/
2. Menke A et al. Prevalence of and Trends in Diabetes Among Adults in the United States, 1988-2012. JAMA. 2015;314(10):1021-1029.
3. Woolf K et al. Physical activity is associated with risk factors for chronic disease across adult women’s life cycle. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jun; 108(6):948-59.
4. Knowler et al. 10-year follow-up of diabetes incidence and weight loss in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Lancet. 2009 Nov 14; 374(9702):1677-86.
5. Madsen S et al. High Intensity Interval Training Improves Glycaemic Control and Pancreatic β Cell Function of Type 2 Diabetes Patients. PLoS One. 2015 Aug 10;10(8):e0133286.
6. Maillard F et al. High-intensity interval training reduces abdominal fat mass in postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Metab. 2016 Dec;42(6):433-441.
7. Shaban N et al. The effects of a 2 week modified high intensity interval training program on the homeostatic model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in adults with type 2 diabetes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014 Apr;54(2):203-9.
8. Jelleyman C et al. The effects of high-intensity interval training on glucose regulation and insulin resistance: a meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2015 Nov;16(11):942-61.
9. Grace A et al. Clinical outcomes and glycaemic responses to different aerobic exercise training intensities in type II diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
10. Jung M et al. High-intensity interval training as an efficacious alternative to moderate-intensity continuous training for adults with prediabetes. J Diabetes Res. 2015;2015:191595.
11. Cassidy, S et al. High intensity intermittent exercise improves cardiac structure and function and reduces liver fat in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised controlled trial. Diabetologia 2016; 59(1): 56–66.
12. Gillen J et al. Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PlosONE April 26, 2016

 

At The Paleo Diet, we look forward to August when our local farmer’s markets are stocked with a plentiful array of fresh-picked produce. We love visiting the various vendors to pick up a bounty of heirloom tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers, lettuce, spinach, peaches, strawberries, melons, and just about anything that grows in our neck of the woods. Right through October, there is little need to visit our local grocery chain, as you can’t beat the freshness of our locally sourced foods. Wherever you reside, give your local growers your support and stock up on some delicious Paleo Diet foods. Give this versatile seasonal favorite from The Paleo Diet kitchen a try. Serve with your favorite fresh greens and some sliced seasonal fruit for an easy, nutritionpacked meal! For more delicious recipes, visit us at: www.thepaleodiet.com

 

Ingredients

  • 1 large 2-3 in diameter squash of your choice, or 4 large peppers
  • 1-pound of ground grass fed beef
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ large bell pepper, seeds removed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of each: fresh thyme, basil, parsley, rosemary and cilantro, finely minced
  • ½ cup water

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out seeds, leaving a 1-2 inch channel to fill later with the beef mixture. Set aside. Brown beef in fry pan on low heat, stirring to be sure the meat is cooked evenly. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate medium sized sauté pan, setting aside the rest. Add onion and garlic and sauté on medium heat about 3 minutes. Add the chopped pepper and continue to sauté for an additional 3-5 minutes. Season evenly with fresh herbs and mix throughout the veggies. Add cooked veggies to meat mixture and mix thoroughly. Evenly coat the inside floor of a 1 or 2-inch baking dish with the remaining olive oil. Stuff squash or peppers with the meat mixture and place in baking dish. Add ½ cup water to bottom of dish and cover with foil. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the squash or peppers are tender. Serves up to 4 people.

For more Paleo Diet recipes, visit our website today!

The increased abdominal fat that many women develop after menopause due to hormonal changes and the skin disorder psoriasis are divergent health concerns that would seem to have little in common. But two recently published studies found a common ground – chronic inflammation.

More importantly, the anti-inflammatory properties of the Paleo Diet were found to improve both [1, 2].

After menopause, women have a tendency to “redistribute” fat around the abdomen which increases the risk for metabolic disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease [3, 4]. In the first study, which was published in Obesity, researchers placed 70 obese postmenopausal women on either a Paleo Diet or a “prudent control diet” (CD) for 24 months. The CD diet, also called the Diabetes diet, is recommended for people with diabetes or insulin resistance; it includes higher vegetable, fiber, whole-grain, and fruit consumption along with lower fat intake [5].

Women on both diets were able to reduce adipose tissue and improve their inflammatory markers. However, improvements in the Paleo Diet group were greater. Women in this group were also the only ones to lower two key inflammatory markers – MCP-1 and plasma C-reactive protein (figure 3). This led the researchers to suggest that the Paleo Diet produced “a more pronounced overall decrease in low-grade inflammation compared to the CD group.”

It’s worth pointing out that subjects on the Diabetes diet reported greater difficulty adhering to the diet and had a higher dropout rate [2]. The Diabetes diet differed from the Paleo Diet in only two major ways – unlike the Paleo Diet, it recommended whole grain consumption and it recommended reduced fat intake. The researchers pointed to the fatty acid profile of the Paleo diet as a potential reason for the better inflammatory profile.

The second study, out of the Department of Dermatology at the University of California, took a different tact. The researchers surveyed 1206 psoriasis patients through the National Psoriasis Foundation to determine specific foods and diets that may influence their condition [1].

Tables 4 and 5 below shows reported trigger foods, foods that may have improved symptoms, and diets that patients said helped their condition:

What is fascinating is that with only a few exceptions, the foods that worsened or helped the condition aligned very closely with Paleo Diet recommendations. Likewise, 69 percent of respondents who tried the Paleo Diet found it helped their condition. Many of the other diets on the list, including the Pangano diet (increased fruit and vegetables/decreased nightshades and junk food) have Paleo-like characteristics. In fact, the study reported that compared to controls in the large-scale NHANES 2009-2010 dataset, “respondents reported less daily intake of sugar, whole grain fiber, dairy products, and calcium.” A quote that could be used to describe someone starting a Paleo Diet.

A theme of the two studies was that chronic inflammation was considered both a cause and a major risk factor for co-morbidities. In fact, psoriasis is being increasingly recognized as a systemic inflammatory condition that is associated with a variety of cardiac and metabolic diseases [6-8].

Researchers of the psoriasis study proposed that a poor diet may change the microbiome and digestion leading to poor immune function. They specifically pointed to the consumption of simple carbohydrates (sugar) and nightshades.

Likewise, authors of the postmenopausal study discussed past research showing that fat deposits can increase inflammation and contribute to metabolic dysfunction.  But weight-loss alone did not resolve the inflammation in some of this past research [2, 9]. The authors pointed to the better fatty acid profile of the Paleo Diet – focused on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids over saturated fats – as a potential explanation for the better inflammatory profile after both six and 24 months [2].

Perhaps most telling is that after including many diets in their survey, the authors of the psoriasis study specifically called out the Paleo Diet. They wrote the diet “can reduce the risk of cardiometabolic comorbidities in psoriasis which are a predominant cause of reduced life expectancy and an important aspect of disease management” [1].

 

References

  1. Afifi, L., et al., Dietary Behaviors in Psoriasis: Patient-Reported Outcomes from a U.S. National Survey. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb), 2017. 7(2): p. 227-242.
  2. Blomquist, C., et al., Attenuated Low-Grade Inflammation Following Long-Term Dietary Intervention in Postmenopausal Women with Obesity. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2017. 25(5): p. 892-900.
  3. Gaspard, U., Hyperinsulinaemia, a key factor of the metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women. Maturitas, 2009. 62(4): p. 362-5.
  4. Kranendonk, M.E., et al., Inflammatory characteristics of distinct abdominal adipose tissue depots relate differently to metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease: distinct fat depots and vascular risk factors. Atherosclerosis, 2015. 239(2): p. 419-27.
  5. Jonsson, T., et al., Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovasc Diabetol, 2009. 8: p. 35.
  6. Takeshita, J., et al., Psoriasis and comorbid diseases: Implications for management. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2017. 76(3): p. 393-403.
  7. Coimbra, S., et al., Systemic inflammation and proinflammatory interleukin-17 signalling persist at the end of therapy in patients with metabolic syndrome and psoriasis, reducing the length of remission. Br J Dermatol, 2016. 174(2): p. 414-6.
  8. Reich, K., The concept of psoriasis as a systemic inflammation: implications for disease management. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol, 2012. 26 Suppl 2: p. 3-11.
  9. Magkos, F., et al., Effects of Moderate and Subsequent Progressive Weight Loss on Metabolic Function and Adipose Tissue Biology in Humans with Obesity. Cell Metab, 2016. 23(4): p. 591-601.

 

As a fellow Cornellian, I’ve had a long-standing admiration for Bill Nye The Science Guy. Alright, I admit that I was a fan-boy. I was pretty excited when Nye returned to Cornell during my time there, to take a guest professor post. Here was a scientist who was charismatic, made science exciting for the masses, and had the “science chops” to teach at the Cornell science department.

So, I was all too disappointed when I watched Bill Nye take on the Paleo Diet in his new Netflix show Bill Nye Saves the World. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t disappointed because he criticized the diet. As scientists, we welcome criticism and counter-arguments – it makes the science stronger. No, I was disappointed because this scientist, who I admired, not only presented a poor argument, but demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of basic science.


An unedited version of the Bill Nye’s Paleo Diet bit isn’t available outside of Netflix. But here’s two YouTube videos showing parts of it – one for and one against:

Bill Nye Disses Paleo. Says Vegan Is The Future
Bill Nye LIES About The Paleo Diet


I do understand that his show is directed at a young audience, so I can forgive a lot. I can even forgive Nye for dressing an actor in bad animal firs, a club, and steel rimmed glasses (apparently a long-forgotten Paleolithic invention made soon after the discovery of fire) and claiming he’s a paleolithic ancestor.

However, when the caveman asks Nye sarcastically “look at me, do I look happy, is this what you want to be?” my only thought was “no, you look like a grown man being paid to act in a bad skit. I wouldn’t be happy either.”

The fact is our unhappy Paleolithic actor doesn’t look anything like a real hunter-gatherer. Just look at him next to this old photo of authentic hunter-gatherers:

 

Do they look happy and healthy? They aren’t smiling. But, they certainly look healthier and fitter than their average modern counterpart. Head-to-head, I would definitely put my money on one of them over Nye’s cavemen – with or without the club.

But again, let’s forgive the costume.

Let’s instead focus on the message. Nye’s caveman continued his rant pointing to himself and saying, “this is not healthy, I’m seventeen.” The underlying message of his rant is that he is representative of the health and happiness of millennia of hunter-gatherer civilizations.

And that’s where Nye crosses a line. Putting a 40-year-old man in a dollar Halloween store caveman get-up is funny. Using that joke as evidence to completely misrepresent entire civilizations seems a little classless.

So, I can forgive the costume, but I can’t forgive the implications. Nye and his caveman make flippant and bold claims about hunter-gatherer health, happiness, and aging without evidence, and in direct contradiction of the established science. Simplifying the science to make it entertaining isn’t an excuse for getting it wrong; especially for someone who’s talent is to make science digestible to the masses.

So, let’s look at what the science really says about his claims. And let’s do it in mostly simple terms to show that the true science is digestible. Nye and his caveman make four arguments against The Paleo Diet. First that the diet is all protein which is dangerous. Second, that Nye’s caveman is 17-years-old and “not healthy,” implying that hunter-gatherers aged very rapidly and poorly. Third, that their diet didn’t help with disease because our paleolithic ancestors did not live long enough to suffer from now common conditions like cancer and heart attacks. And finally, that the caveman is clearly unhappy living a Paleo life.

I could address that final argument with dozens of accounts of how tribal cultures centered around their regular feast and the joy experienced at these community events. But you know what, that would be a lot of energy focused on addressing a bad joke. Forget the science – I’m just going to recommend Nye takes a couple hours to watch Dances with Wolves.

 

Bill Nye Gets Hunter-Gatherer Aging and Health Wrong

Let’s address the second and third arguments – first that hunter-gatherers aged rapidly and poorly and second, that they didn’t live long enough to develop cancer and other degenerative diseases. These are common misconceptions easily disproved by current science.

Yes, the average life-expectancy of ancient hunter-gatherer societies was somewhere between 20-years of age and late 30s [1-6]. But that does not mean, as Nye implies, that 30-year-olds looked like frail modern-day 80-year-olds.

Life expectancy and aging are two very different things.  Life expectancy is determined using a complex multi-factorial equation that considers all causes of death including illness, accidents and war, It also factors in mortality rates of children, full-grown adults and the elderly, Delve deeper and you have to understand things like senescence, life tables and mortality hazard rates [6].

That’s a mouthful, and not something that Nye’s audience should have to understand – but Nye should.

Put simply, life expectancy says very little if anything about the aging process. If life expectancy was 30, that does not mean that people died of old age at 30. War, disease, and high childhood mortality all affect the number. In fact, the biggest factor in life expectancy is childhood mortality. Life expectancy in hunter-gatherer societies were so much lower than modern day societies because of the rates of childhood mortality were very high, as this graph of Hiwi hunter-gatherers shows [2]:

In 2007, Michael Gurven, PhD and Hillard Kaplan, PhD published the most extensive study of hunter-gatherer life expectancy and longevity to date. And they used actual records of deaths from multiple recent hunter-gatherer societies instead of calculations and theory like previous studies.

Showing just how big a factor childhood mortality was, they compared mortality rates of their hunter-gatherer societies to modern Americans [6]:

What this graph shows, simply, is that mortality rates in childhood are up to 100 times higher in hunter-gatherers than modern humans. But for those who lived past the age of 15, their life-expectancy was very similar to modern humans.

Gurven and Kaplan concluded their study by stating:

Our results contradict Vallois’s claim that among early humans, “few individuals passed forty years, and it is only quite exceptional that any passed fifty”… The data shows that modal adult life span is 68-78 years and that it was not uncommon for individuals to reach these ages, suggesting that inferences based on paleodemographic reconstruction are unreliable.

In other words, claims that life was short was based on unreliable data. Hunter-gatherers who survived to the age of 15 in fact aged no faster than modern humans and frequently lived into their 70s.

A better way to estimate the age at which people tended to die of old age is modal age. Sorry again for the complex term. Simply put, it’s the most common age of death. Gurven and Kaplan determined the modal ages for modern Americans and for both recent and ancient hunter-gatherers:

While modern Americans have the highest model age of death, the differences are not that great. The modal adult life span ranged from 68-78 years for pre-modern societies [6].

Nye’s failure to understand this accepted science about aging and life span led to his other mistaken argument. He claimed that while our Paleolithic ancestors had few chronic diseases, it was because no one lived long enough to contract them and not because of lifestyle or diet.

Gurven and Kaplan explored causes of death as well. They divided the causes into four categories: illness (such as respiratory infection and gastrointestinal problems,) accidents, violence, and degenerative deaths (cancer, heart disease, old-age.) Gurven and Kaplan, admitted that chronic illness was hard to diagnose in these societies. However, since the other three causes accounted for, on average, 90.8% of deaths, degenerative death was at most a minor factor at 9.2% [6]. Even in those who survived to old age, degeneration still only accounted for 28.2% of deaths in adults over 60 years of age.

Contrast those rates to the 2015 Center For Disease Control statistics on the top 10 causes of death in America where the seven leading degenerative conditions (heart disease, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and nephritis) accounted for 59.4% of deaths [7]:

It’s important to recognize that this higher percentage in modern Americans is due in part or mostly to a drop in deaths due to illness, injury and violence and not just a rise in chronic disease.

However, contradicting Nye’s claim that chronic illness is purely an old-age phenomena, among adults aged 25-44, the four top degenerative conditions alone (including cancer) accounted for 30% of deaths in America in 2015 [7]. Death rates were similar between hunter-gatherers and modern Americans in this age range [6] yet for hunter-gatherers, all degenerative diseases accounted for only 9.2% of deaths in adults aged 15 to 59 [6].

The fact is, if the appearance of chronic disease was purely due to people living longer, then we wouldn’t have had a dramatic rise in these conditions in recent decades including a rise in childhood cancer, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. [4, 5, 8-12]. Chronic disease among US children increased from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006 alone [12]. A rise that corresponds more with dietary changes like the increase in high-carbohydrate diets and refined sugars.

Gurven and Kaplan wrote that “degenerative deaths are relatively few, confined largely to problems early in infancy and late-age cerebrovascular problems, as well as attribution of ‘old-age’ in the absence of obvious symptoms… heart attack and stroke appear rare and do not account for these old-age deaths.”

The general good health was also reflected in Captain Cook’s account of the native Maori during his 1772 expedition to New Zealand:

A further proof that human nature here is untainted with disease is the great number of old men that we saw… appeared to be very ancient, yet none of them were decrepit; and though not equal to the young in muscular strength, were not a whit behind them in cheerfulness and vivacity.

Simply put, hunter-gatherers lived a much longer, healthier and happier life than Bill Nye claimed. We have a wealth of ethnographic science to show this. He has an actor with a club.

 

Bill Nye Gets the Paleo Diet Wrong… and Nutrition in General

Nye very correctly states that an all-protein diet is dangerous. Dr Loren Cordain even wrote in the original Paleo Diet book that consuming more than about 35% of our calories from protein can lead to a fatal condition called rabbit starvation [4].

However, the fact that Nye believes the Paleo Diet is an all-protein diet demonstrates that he didn’t bother to research the diet before attacking it. He also makes some very basic nutrition mistakes. Even if hunter-gatherers ate only meat (which they didn’t), meat is not all-protein. It’s often not even predominantly protein. It contains fat– a macronutrient that Nye failed to even mention. Yet, the types of fat we eat have a profound impact on our health.

Hunter-gatherer diets in fact ranged from 19-35% protein and 22-40% carbohydrate [13]. Further, about 35-45% of hunter-gatherer’s total calories came from fruits and vegetables. And since meat is far more calorie dense, hunter-gatherers ate a greater volume of carbohydrate-rich plant food than meat [14].

Nye continued to demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic nutrition by saying that “eating Paleo means giving up pasta, breads: carbohydrates.”

Again, this is basic nutrition. Grains are not our only carbohydrate source. Vegetables and fruits are considered carbohydrate sources as well. They are also more nutrient dense than grain products, and even Paleo-detractors will generally agree that fresh vegetables are healthier than bread and pasta [4, 5, 13, 15, 16].

So yes, an all-protein, all-meat diet is bad for you. But what does that have to do with The Paleo Diet or basic nutrition in general? I challenge Nye to eat an all-protein diet. I’m not sure it’s physiologically possible.

 

Bill Nye Is Trying to Save the World

Nye has publicly stated his support for a vegan diet. And don’t get me wrong; I admire vegans – when they are doing it for ethical or sustainability reasons. Sustainability is a legitimate concern and Dr. Cordain has published a paper stating that the world’s population has exceeded what can be supported on a Paleo Diet [17].

My co-thesis advisor researched beans and rice. She claimed a few times that “Trevor is working with Dr. Cordain to help figure out what’s the healthiest diet. I’m trying to figure out how to feed the world.”

But, supporting a vegan diet for sustainability reasons doesn’t also automatically make it healthier. Nor does it make the diet our bodies evolved around less healthy. It’s noble for a scientist to want to “save the world” and maybe a little cocky to name your show that. But no scientist will save anything by getting the basic science wrong.

 

References

1. Karasik, D., B. Arensburg, and O.M. Pavlovsky, Age assessment of Natufian remains from the land of Israel. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2000. 113(2): p. 263-274.
2. Hill, K., A.M. Hurtado, and R.S. Walker, High adult mortality among Hiwi hunter-gatherers: Implications for human evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, 2007. 52(4): p. 443-454.
3. Trinkaus, E., Late Pleistocene adult mortality patterns and modern human establishment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2011. 108(4): p. 1267-1271.
4. Cordain, L., The Paleo diet : lose weight and get healthy by eating the foods you were designed to eat. Rev. ed. 2011, Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. xv, 266 p.
5. Eaton, S.B., M. Konner, and M. Shostak, Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective. Am J Med, 1988. 84(4): p. 739-49.
6. Gurven, M. and H. Kaplan, Longevity among hunter-gatherers: A cross-cultural examination. Population and Development Review, 2007. 33(2): p. 321-365.
7. Statistics, N.C.f.H., Health, United States, 2016: With Chartbook on Long-term Trends in Health, U.D.o.H.a.H. Services, Editor. 2017. p. 488.
8. Anderson, G. and J. Horvath, The growing burden of chronic disease in America. Public Health Rep, 2004. 119(3): p. 263-70.
9. Gale, E.A., The rise of childhood type 1 diabetes in the 20th century. Diabetes, 2002. 51(12): p. 3353-61.
10. Eaton, S.B., L. Cordain, and P.B. Sparling, Evolution, body composition, insulin receptor competition, and insulin resistance. Prev Med, 2009. 49(4): p. 283-5.
11. Eaton, S.B. and M. Konner, Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med, 1985. 312(5): p. 283-9.
12. Van Cleave, J., S.L. Gortmaker, and J.M. Perrin, Dynamics of Obesity and Chronic Health Conditions Among Children and Youth. Jama-Journal of the American Medical Association, 2010. 303(7): p. 623-630.
13. Cordain, L., et al., Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005. 81(2): p. 341-54.
14. Cordain, L., et al., Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr, 2000. 71(3): p. 682-92.
15. Cordain, L., et al., Macronutrient estimations in hunter-gatherer diets. Am J Clin Nutr, 2000. 72(6): p. 1589-92.
16. Eaton, S.B. and S.B. Eaton, 3rd, Paleolithic vs. modern diets–selected pathophysiological implications. Eur J Nutr, 2000. 39(2): p. 67-70.
17. Cordain, L., Cereal grains: humanity’s double-edged sword. World Rev Nutr Diet, 1999. 84: p. 19-73.

US Government Poised to Drop Cholesterol Warnings? | The Paleo DietCholesterol – is there a more controversial topic in the world of nutrition? For years, we were told that cholesterol is one of the most important biomarkers of health, particularly cardiovascular health. Prominent government- and health-related institutions have traditionally recommended upper limits on dietary cholesterol of 300 mg/day (effectively limiting egg consumption to 1 egg per day.) A recommendation based on the theory that dietary cholesterol – the cholesterol contained in food – negatively impacts cholesterol found in the blood, called serum cholesterol.

With the emergence of more and more scientific evidence, however, this theory has become increasingly untenable, causing many scientists to change their views on cholesterol. The counter theory – that dietary cholesterol has little impact on serum cholesterol – is actually nothing new. Even the progenitor of the misguided lipid theory of heart disease, Ancel Keys, acknowledged back in 1953 that dietary cholesterol doesn’t significantly impact serum cholesterol.1

Unfortunately, cholesterol came to be demonized due to its association with saturated fat and for decades both were thought to be unhealthy. New studies in the past several years have challenged this orthodox view of cholesterol.

The new research has also challenged traditional beliefs about eggs. Rather than limiting egg consumption, the available evidence suggests that eggs are actually cardio-protective.

In March 2017, for example, The Journal of Nutrition published a new study about egg consumption and its positive effects on both HDL function and plasma antioxidant levels.2 Previous studies had shown similar benefits, but those studies were largely conducted on unhealthy populations.3,4,5

The authors of this new study, therefore, decided to test how eating one, two, or three eggs daily would affect healthy young adults. This study was the latest in a series of scientific papers showing that foods rich in dietary cholesterol can actually decrease one’s risk for heart disease – a complete turnaround from the institutional forebodings of decades past.

 

Important, But Not Essential

Cholesterol is not an essential nutrient. This means that although your body requires cholesterol, you’re not dependent on food to obtain it. In fact, your liver produces 90% of the cholesterol needed by your body. Some people use this fact to advance the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol is unnecessary or even unhealthy. This hypothesis is flawed for several reasons, including:

  1. The foods that contain significant amounts of cholesterol also contain many other important nutrients, particularly iron, and vitamin B12.
  2. Nearly all foods that contain bioavailable forms of high-quality protein also contain cholesterol.

 

The Origins of the Theory

So where does the idea that dietary cholesterol is unhealthy come from? Surprisingly, the early studies that inspired this idea were actually conducted on rabbits. While this may seem reasonable, it’s important to remember that rabbits are herbivores. And since their natural diets don’t contain cholesterol, it’s no surprise that it impacts them negatively.

Nikolay Anichkov was the scientist who originally conducted these rabbit studies back in the early 20th century. Interestingly, he fed rabbits a purified form of cholesterol.6 Obtaining cholesterol this way is completely different from obtaining cholesterol from healthy foods. In fact, most of Anichkov’s peers questioned the relevance to human health of his cholesterol experiments performed on rabbits.

Nearly 40 years later, John Gofman became the next major researcher to show interest in the topic. Gofman reported that higher levels of LDL were associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD), whereas higher levels of HDL appeared to protect against CHD.7

After Gofman, Ancel Keys became the most prominent heart disease researcher. Through a series of experiments, Keys concluded that saturated fat consumption has the biggest impact on serum cholesterol levels. However, regarding dietary cholesterol, as mentioned above, Keys reported, “repeated careful dietary surveys on large numbers of persons in whom blood cholesterol was measured consistently fail to disclose a relationship between the cholesterol in the diet and in the serum.”8

Keys became known as the father of the lipid hypothesis – the theory that fat consumption, particularly saturated fat, drives heart disease. During the past 15 years or so, the lipid hypothesis has faced serious challenges. One of its core tenets is that saturated fat increase LDL cholesterol, which does in fact correlate with heart disease. However, LDL varies by particle size – small or large.

 

Small versus Large

Small particle LDL is more prone to oxidation and to the formation of subsequent arterial lesions and arterial plaque.9 Large particle LDL is less susceptible to such modifications and therefore carries little, if any, cardiovascular risk. In fact, a study that tracked women for 11 years found no significant association between large particle LDL and cardiovascular disease risk (CVD).10

So how does all this relate to eggs and their relatively high amounts of dietary cholesterol? Some interesting findings emerged from the recent Journal of Nutrition study.2 For example, as egg consumption increased, small LDL decreased and large LDL increased – a win-win with respect to reducing CVD risk. Additionally, concentrations of HDL and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin also increased as daily egg consumption went up.2

One great benefit of HDL is its ability to remove cholesterol from macrophages. This is one of the key aspects of preventing the build-up of cholesterol inside the blood vessels. Additionally, this is one reason why low HDL is related to increased CVD risk.11

 

Conclusions

Eggs have gotten a bad rap, mostly due their high levels of cholesterol and due to our imprecise, yet ever-evolving, views on the relationship between cholesterol-rich foods and blood cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately, the nutrition establishment is still struggling to acknowledge the obvious – that eggs and other cholesterol-rich foods are healthy. Back in 2015, the USDA was in the process of updating its official Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In its Preliminary Report, published in February 2015, the group’s Advisory Committee recommended dropping the decades old 300 mg/day limit on dietary cholesterol. The available evidence, they reported, “shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol.”12 Accordingly the committee concluded, “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over-consumption.”

Unfortunately, as soon as the clouds of bad conclusions dissipated, they quickly reemerged, again blocking the light of reason and evidence. For in their final report, published in January 2016, the USDA backed away from the Preliminary Report’s encouraging conclusions. Instead, they settled on “individuals should eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”13

So we’re back to square one. The usual suspects are still warning against dietary cholesterol, whereas the scientific evidence draws other conclusions. Egg-white omelets are still served in many restaurants, whereas the nutrient-rich yolks are often discarded. Are eggs healthy? The science says yes, but you can decide.

References

[1] Keys, A. (1953). Prediction and Possible Prevention of Coronary Disease. Am J Public Health Nations Health., 43(11). Retrieved from (link).

[2] DiMarco DM, et al. (2017). Intake of up to 3 Eggs per Day Is Associated with Changes in HDL Function and Increased Plasma Antioxidants in Healthy, Young Adults. Journal of Nutrition, 147(3). Retrieved from (link).

[3] Herron KL, et al. (2004). High intake of cholesterol results in less atherogenic low-density lipoprotein particles in men and women independent of response classification. Metabolism, 53(6). Retrieved from (link).

[4] Mutungi G, et al. (2008). Dietary Cholesterol from Eggs Increases Plasma HDL Cholesterol in Overweight Men Consuming a Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet. Journal of Nutrition, 138(2). Retrieved from (link).

[5] Blesso CN, et al. (2013). Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism, 62(3). Retrieved from (link).

[6] Finking G, et al. (1997). Nikolaj Nikolajewitsch Anitschkow (1885-1964) established the cholesterol-fed rabbit as a model for atherosclerosis research. Atherosclerosis, 135(1). Retrieved from (link).

[7] Gotto AM, et al. (2011). Jeremiah Metzger Lecture: Cholesterol, Inflammation and Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease: Is It All LDL? Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc., 122. Retrieved from (link).

[8] Keys, A. (1953). Prediction and Possible Prevention of Coronary Disease. Am J Public Health Nations Health., 43(11). Retrieved from (link).

[9] Ross R. (1999). Atherosclerosis – an inflammatory disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 340(2). Retrieved from (link).

[10] Mora S, et al. (Feb 2009). Lipoprotein particle profiles by nuclear magnetic resonance compared with standard lipids and apolipoproteins in predicting incident cardiovascular disease in women. Circulation, 119(7). Retrieved from (link).

[11] Assmann G, et al. (1996). High-density lipoprotein cholesterol as a predictor of coronary heart disease risk. The PROCAM experience and pathophysiological implications for reverse cholesterol transport. Atherosclerosis, 124. Retrieved from (link).

[12] 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. (Feb 2015). Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. US Department of Health and Human Services and US Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from (link).

[13] USDA. (2016). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Final Report. Retrieved from (link).

2016 Fireworks | The Paleo Diet

Paleo critics are always voicing unsubstantiated claims. Their attacks are easily countered, but they sometimes create confusion and discouragement, especially for those who are new to Paleo. The British Dietetic Association, for example, has called Paleo a “time consuming, socially-isolating diet.” If you’re just starting out with Paleo, it’s probably better to get your advice from people who actually follow the lifestyle, not from critics who simply parrot talking points.

The Paleo Diet shouldn’t be time consuming or socially isolating, nor should it be overly expensive. Above all, the Paleo Diet is flexible. Whatever your personal circumstances, you can customize the Paleo Diet so it works for you. Here are 5 great tips to get you started.

1. Master the Slow-Cooker

The slow-cooker is one of your best kitchen-friends. It saves you time and money while helping you cook meals that taste like they were prepared by a professional chef…or by your grandmother. With a slow-cooker, you can save money on meat by buying the cheaper, tougher cuts, which are just as tasty (and nutritious) after being cooked for several hours.

The slow-cooker also saves you time, because the cooking is passive. Slow-cookers are designed to be safe even when they are unattended. Most of us would be wary about leaving the oven or stove turned on while we were away from the house for several hours. With a slow-cooker, however, this is perfectly acceptable.

2. Eating at Restaurants

Paleo need not be “socially isolating.” Sure, if your friends are going out for pizza and sodas, you should probably pass, but at most restaurants you’ll find plenty of Paleo-compliant choices. Go for grilled meat or fish plus steamed vegetables or a salad. Salad dressings will typically have canola or other vegetable oils, so ask your server to bring you olive oil and lemon juice on the side.

3. Lunch On the Go

The reality of our modern lifestyles is that you probably won’t be able to eat every meal at home. Get into the habit of taking your lunch with you, especially if you work at an office. Make a Paleo meal, preferably something that tastes good cold, and get some glass or BPA-free plastic storage containers with lids that lock into place. Usually you can find mini-size containers for sauces and dressing, so as to avoid soggy salads.

4. Strategic Leftovers

Another key to minimizing kitchen time is using leftovers strategically. This starts by intentionally cooking extras, with the plan of using these extras for upcoming meals. For example, you’re cooking steaks. Cook one or two more than you need. Let them cool and then refrigerate. Later, slice thinly with a sharp knife. Add this to a salad. Congratulations, you’re salad has just become a complete meal. You can do the same thing with turkey, duck, lamb, and other meats.

5. Making Fabulous Sauces

A great way to fancy up your vegetable dishes is with sauces. Sure, you could just drizzle some coconut oil or olive oil on salads and steamed vegetables, but sauces bring these foods to another level, which might be important for you, especially if you are seeking more variety and when cooking for family or friends.

Here’s a simple sauce strategy. You’ll need a blender, preferably a small one. Blend a small handful of nuts (cashews, almonds, or macadamia) with a couple spoons of olive oil, a few spoons of lemon juice, and a handful of washed herbs (stems removed), like parsley, cilantro, or mint. Add just enough water to achieve a smooth, creamy texture.

You’ll find plenty more tips and tricks throughout this website. Start the New Year off right. Make Paleo work for you!

Maca Root Powder | The Paleo Diet
Dear Dr. Cordain,

Thank you for your great YouTube vidoes and your website. I found them last week after some detours through a few pale imitators, and have begun transitioning to the Paleo diet according to your interpretation, which I consider to be the most authentic. In only about a week, I am feeling much less bloated, have fewer cravings, and think my body looks slightly different. I love how deeply the foundations of the diet have been researched and how well you explain it.

I have a question about maca root, which I have just learned is from a plant in the brassica family. I have a thyroid condition which manifests as hypothyroid (Grave’s Disease, 38 years post-thyroidectomy of 90% of the organ), so avoid cruciferous vegetables pretty regularly. I have been taking synthroid for about 15 years. I’m 59 years old, and have used maca for a few years as a post-menopausal adaptogen. Now, that I know that maca is in the brassica family, I have a concern about whether or not it might be best to eliminate it from my diet. I am using a raw, organic, powdered version at about 1-2 teaspoons a day.

I know you can’t give me medical advice. My question is whether or not you know if maca shares all the same anti-nutritional properties of other brassicas. If I know that and will share it with me, I can make an educated choice whether or not to continue ingesting it.

Many thanks!

Margaret

Dr. Cordain’s Response

Hi Margaret,

Many thanks for your kind words about my research on the Paleo diet. Let me answer your question about maca root (Lepidium meyenii) which is indeed a member of the brassica family.

In theory powdered maca root could adversely affect throid function because of the presence of glucosinolates.1 In my blog post “Millet: A Gluten-Free Grain You Should Avoid” I have explained how concentrated sources of these compounds may adversely affect thyroid function and cause goiter.

Generally, in people with normal thyroid function consumption of brassica plants have no adverse effects. Only when thyroid is impaired by pre-existing low plasma iodine levels does consumption of brassica exacerbate the problem. A study in rats demonstrated no change in thyroid function via measurement of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) following both short and long term consumption of Lepidium species.2 Hence, unless a person has a pre-existing thyroid problem or low blood concentrations of iodine, consumption of maca root powder generally appears to be safe.

References

1. Valerio LG, Gonzales GF. Toxicological aspects of the South American herbs cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa) and maca (Lepidium meyenni)

2. H. O. Meissner, B. Kedzia, P. M. Mrozikiewicz, and A. Mscisz. Short and Long-Term Physiological Responses of Male and Female Rats to Two Dietary Levels of Pre-Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum Chacon) Int J Biomed Sci. 2006 Feb; 2(1): 13–28.

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