Tag Archives: Paleo food

Clinical research studies have helped us to better understand the impact of diet on human health. Research studies comparing low-carb to low-fat diets have become more specific and selective in how they measure outcomes. Lowering HbA1C is the standard for studies involving people with Type 2 diabetes, and lipid levels such as HDL are markers for heart disease prevention. Markers for inflammation can be used to predict decreases in cardiovascular diseases and some cancers. While many are primarily interested in the weight loss advantages of a low-carb diet, weight loss is not always the only measure of good health.

Markers for inflammation can be an early sign of disease, and researchers are consequently hoping they can pinpoint problems at a stage where the issues are still amenable to lifestyle changes. There are very specific research markers for inflammation that pinpoint the cardiovascular system, and others that look at cancers and other inflammatory conditions. In general screenings, such as cholesterol tests, the C-reactive protein (CRP) is the most common marker for inflammation. Many physicians and nutrition specialists believe that inflammatory markers and lipid levels are critical pieces of information when predicting health outcomes.

All carbs are not created equally. Some foods that are typically considered starchy carbs, like butternut squash and sweet potatoes, are highly dense in nutrients. The density of the nutrients is important, but if we’re going to understand how these carbs are different, then we need to consider their fiber content, as well as how we eat, digest, and metabolize them. These factors explain how paleo carbs can reduce markers of inflammation and improve lipid levels in an otherwise low-carb diet.

Some of the most interesting research into the benefits of Paleo carbs —cooked starchy tubers, fruits, and vegetables — was conducted by Dr. Karen Hardy and her team. They were looking for dietary factors in the evolutionary gains in the size of the human brain, and the results — an interesting mix of archeology, anthropology, anatomy, physiology, and genetic testing — suggest that when humans began cooking starchy carbs from tubers, such as yams and sweet potatoes, beets, and carrots, as well as winter squashes and bananas, a concomitant increase in amylase salivary glands allowed humans to begin to chew and digest these starches more efficiently. This more efficient way of eating and digesting — cooking combined with an increase in amylase in our saliva — meant that dietary glucose, the main “brain food,” was readily available both to our brains and the brains of developing babies. Dr. Hardy’s conclusions, published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, suggest that while dietary meat jump-started human brain development, the ability to eat, digest, and obtain nutrition from cooked starchy vegetables finished the work.

One notable factor when looking at paleo carbs is their color — the deep reds, golds, and oranges of winter squashes, pumpkin, beets, and yams suggest that the foods are dense with nutrients. When cooked, especially when slow-roasted, the natural sweetness of the sugars makes these foods a delightful addition to the diet. Their bright colors are not just beautiful , but they’re also sweet and densely nutritious.

Many fruits and vegetables are part of the Paleo lifestyle. When we consider if a fruit or vegetable would fit into  a low-carb diet, we also need to consider that low-carb diets allow for 20 percent of the diet to be constituted by carbs. Our big brains need the complex and dense nutrition afforded by the paleo carbs. If you want to take advantage of the natural sweetness of paleo carbs, then consider adding sweet potatoes, roasted beets, and butternut squash to your plate, and try cooking some bananas and peaches for dessert You can enjoy all of these nutrient-dense foods while remaining on a low-carb paleo diet.

When considering measures for good health, weight is only one of the factors that can predict good health outcomes. Lipid testing, inflammatory markers, and HbA1C also give critical information about general health.

Slow Cooked Paleo Pork Ribs and Roots

Paleo pork ribs, cooked slowly to perfection, are truly one of the most delicious foods out there. For too long, however, they’ve unrightfully demonized as an unhealthy food. Because they contain saturated fat, many institutions are still advancing the outdated and disproven theory that saturated fat increases your risk for heart disease.

Recently, for example, Claire Hewat, the CEO of the Dietitians Association of Australia, wrote an opinion piece for the Newcastle Herald in which she expressed several opinions contrary to the science behind the Paleo diet. Among her list of “healthy fats,” she includes both sunflower and canola oil, both of which contain significant quantities of inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.1

Hewat contends that “too much saturated fat increases one’s risk for heart disease,” and recommends replacing foods containing saturated fat with those containing unsaturated fat. Technically, she’s right because too much of anything is unhealthy, but the scientific literature doesn’t support extreme reductions of dietary saturated fat. To the contrary, saturated fat, from both plant and animal foods, consumed in accordance with Paleo diet principles, is health supportive.

Also, it’s important to dispel the myth that pork and other animal fats are solely saturated fat; they’re actually proportionately higher in unsaturated fat. Lard, for example, is roughly 41% saturated fat, 47% monounsaturated, and 12% polyunsaturated. Tallow is about 50% saturated, 46% monounsaturated, and 4% polyunsaturated.

Besides containing healthy varieties and quantities of fat, pork ribs are also rich in B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, and protein.

Try our Slow Cooked Paleo Pork Ribs and Roots recipe, paired with a fresh garden salad, for a delicious, nutritious, complete Paleo meal.


    • 2-3 lbs. pork ribs
    • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
    • 1 large white onion, cut into half-moon slices
    • 3-4 turnips, cut into large-bite chunks
    • 3-4 carrots, cut into large-bite chunks
    • 1 tbsp allspice
    • 2 cans diced tomatoes (BPA-free, no-salt added)
    • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
    • Freshly milled black pepper


1. Cut the rib rack into pieces of 2-3 ribs each. 2. Bring a nonstick pan to medium heat and cook the ribs about 5-10 minutes per side until they brown slightly.
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Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Nutritional Grail

Christopher James Clark | The Paleo Diet TeamChristopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.

See more recipes!



[1] Hewat, Claire. (Mar 30, 2015). OPINION: Myths and legends of food. Newcastle Herald. 

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating | The Paleo Diet

What we eat is determined by how we feel. But what we feel is partially determined by what we eat.1, 2, 3 This paradoxical catch-22 is doubly important because of the obesity pandemic which we currently find ourselves in.4, 5 Clearly, there is a great psychological disruption from the obvious paradigm of eating healthy foods, which help us to feel good and keep us on a healthy path.6, 7 And the mere fact that that issue is so largely affecting so many of us, means that there must be a lot more to this issue.

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating | The Paleo Diet

Asmaro, Deyar, and Mario Liotti. “High-Caloric and Chocolate Stimuli Processing in Healthy Humans: An Integration of Functional Imaging and Electrophysiological Findings.” Nutrients 6.1 (2014): 319–341. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

When we eat vegetables, like kale, broccoli or spinach, we don’t attain any reward, biochemically speaking. However, we, as a world, are now largely subsisting on processed, junk and fast foods – all of which affect our psychology much differently.8, 9 Drinking 20 oz. of soda is a quick way to short-circuit your brain’s pleasure center – by giving it too much, too fast.10, 11

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating

Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience 9.7 (2008): 568–578. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

But perhaps worse, is that we are now consuming these foods when we are stressed. And we are now stressed all the time.12 Food as a coping mechanism is a very unhealthy relationship, and more and more, that’s the kind of relationship our citizens are in.13 With the short-term reward of a digital, hyper-connected world, we now seek less and less direct human companionship, resulting in a closer relationship with food, or more accurately, “food-like products.”14

Processed, microwaved pizzas, donuts, pastries, sugary breakfast cereals – these have become our fallbacks.15 As we become lonelier and more isolated, we become closer and closer with our genetically modified foodstuffs. And as a result, we become fatter and fatter. We also develop a deeply unsettling relationship with food, as we psychologically use it as a crutch for just about everything.16, 17

We no longer even seem to know the difference between cravings and hunger. And this is the key difference that stops us from making poor, stress-related food choices. Sugar alone is a key issue that is destroying our world’s health.18 Perhaps having the greatest single impact on the psychology around food, sugar is by far the biggest factor that we can control, and which will make the biggest difference on our mental health, in regards to food.19

Getting Fatter and Fatter: The Psychology of Eating | The Paleo Diet

Gómez-Pinilla, Fernando. “Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function.” Nature reviews. Neuroscience 9.7 (2008): 568–578. PMC. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

By avoiding excess amounts of sugar, we are automatically focusing on more nutritious food choices. And this is what we need, more than anything else, in order to regain a healthy mental relationship with food.20, 21, 22 Eating meals when we’re hungry, full of brain healthy foods, will help us focus on what really matters – rather than something that temporarily relieves our stress.

And perhaps the worst element of all, is that the more and more we consume foods empty in calories and high in reward – the more we need of them – just to feel normal. This is due to a down-regulation of D2 (dopamine) receptors.23 This is the same mechanism that underlies addictions to alcohol, cocaine and other addictive substances.24, 25 Surprising, isn’t it?

Since Americans are now eating about four to five times more than the amount of sugar they actually need – this is a serious problem.26, 27 And, once our brain feels that reward – it never forgets it. This is the crux of the underlying psychological hold which food has on us. When stressed, we don’t turn to sweet potatoes, kale and liver – we turn to candy, soda – the “hard” stuff.

Consuming a Paleo Diet will help us avoid excess, processed sugar, and will reward our brain in a different way – with neuron-boosting nutrients. Not only does this improve our psychological relationship with food, it keeps us trim and fit. Win-win. Instead of spending your brain’s energy thinking about donuts and sugar, focus instead on Paleo-friendly foods like wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and spinach.

Avoid those psychologically unhealthy “foods” made in factories and with added chemicals and preservatives – and you will be well on your way to improving your mental and physical health.  This is a definite step in the right psychological direction – just by changing the food on your plate. Your health is ultimately in your control – make the right choices when it comes to the psychology of eating, and you will be much healthier for it.



[1] Nguyen-rodriguez ST, Unger JB, Spruijt-metz D. Psychological determinants of emotional eating in adolescence. Eat Disord. 2009;17(3):211-24.

[2] Harris JL, Bargh JA, Brownell KD. Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior. Health Psychol. 2009;28(4):404-13.

[3] Wilson GT, Grilo CM, Vitousek KM. Psychological treatment of eating disorders. Am Psychol. 2007;62(3):199-216.

[4] Roth J, Qiang X, Marbán SL, Redelt H, Lowell BC. The obesity pandemic: where have we been and where are we going?. Obes Res. 2004;12 Suppl 2:88S-101S.

[5] Swinburn BA, Sacks G, Hall KD, et al. The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):804-14.

[6] Blechert J, Goltsche JE, Herbert BM, Wilhelm FH. Eat your troubles away: electrocortical and experiential correlates of food image processing are related to emotional eating style and emotional state. Biol Psychol. 2014;96:94-101.

[7] Asmaro D, Liotti M. High-caloric and chocolate stimuli processing in healthy humans: an integration of functional imaging and electrophysiological findings. Nutrients. 2014;6(1):319-41.

[8] Smeets PA, De graaf C, Stafleu A, Van osch MJ, Nievelstein RA, Van der grond J. Effect of satiety on brain activation during chocolate tasting in men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(6):1297-305.

[9] Gómez-pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008;9(7):568-78.

[10] Avena NM, Rada P, Hoebel BG. Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2008;32(1):20-39.

[11] Green E, Murphy C. Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Physiol Behav. 2012;107(4):560-7.

[12] Jackson M. The stress of life: a modern complaint?. Lancet. 2014;383(9914):300-1.

[13] Rorabaugh JM, Stratford JM, Zahniser NR. A relationship between reduced nucleus accumbens shell and enhanced lateral hypothalamic orexin neuronal activation in long-term fructose bingeing behavior. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(4):e95019.

[14] Cohen DA, Babey SH. Contextual influences on eating behaviours: heuristic processing and dietary choices. Obes Rev. 2012;13(9):766-79.

[15] Kant AK. Consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods by adult Americans: nutritional and health implications. The third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(4):929-36.

[16] Greeno CG, Wing RR. Stress-induced eating. Psychol Bull. 1994;115(3):444-64.

[17] Nguyen-rodriguez ST, Unger JB, Spruijt-metz D. Psychological determinants of emotional eating in adolescence. Eat Disord. 2009;17(3):211-24.

[18] Hoebel BG, Avena NM, Bocarsly ME, Rada P. Natural addiction: a behavioral and circuit model based on sugar addiction in rats. J Addict Med. 2009;3(1):33-41.

[19] Lien L, Lien N, Heyerdahl S, Thoresen M, Bjertness E. Consumption of soft drinks and hyperactivity, mental distress, and conduct problems among adolescents in Oslo, Norway. Am J Public Health. 2006;96(10):1815-20.

[20] Lieberman HR. Nutrition, brain function and cognitive performance. Appetite. 2003;40(3):245-54.

[21] Bourre JM. Effects of nutrients (in food) on the structure and function of the nervous system: update on dietary requirements for brain. Part 1: micronutrients. J Nutr Health Aging. 2006;10(5):377-85.

[22] Bradbury J. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): an ancient nutrient for the modern human brain. Nutrients. 2011;3(5):529-54.

[23] Halpern CH, Tekriwal A, Santollo J, et al. Amelioration of binge eating by nucleus accumbens shell deep brain stimulation in mice involves D2 receptor modulation. J Neurosci. 2013;33(17):7122-9.

[24] Liu Y, Von deneen KM, Kobeissy FH, Gold MS. Food addiction and obesity: evidence from bench to bedside. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2010;42(2):133-45.

[25] Suto N, Ecke LE, Wise RA. Control of within-binge cocaine-seeking by dopamine and glutamate in the core of nucleus accumbens. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2009;205(3):431-9.

[26] Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120(11):1011-20.

[27] Terry-mcelrath YM, Johnston LD, O’malley PM. Trends in competitive venue beverage availability: findings from US secondary schools. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(8):776-8.

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