The Dangers of a Strict Paleo Diet

If you read the Miracle Noodle blog, “The Paleo Diet and Diabetes,” you learned about one of the latest diet trends, the so-called ‘Paleo Diet,’ which we on the Miracle Noodle team, believe is generally a healthy nutritional protocol for those trying to lower their blood sugar and improve diabetes.

If you’re not diabetic but just interested in general weight loss advice or the low-carb lifestyle, it still helps to know what the possible downsides are to ‘going strict paleo.’

For basic review, a strict Paleo diet means, among other things:

  • --no hamburgers at a barbeque (unless the meat is 100% grass-fed, eaten with no bun and no ketchup)

  • --no wine and cheese (Strict Paleo dieters believe the only Paleo-approved beverage is water; dairy was not consumed during the Paleolithic era and contemporary cheese is often processed)

  • --no morning (or anytime) cup of coffee; dandelion root or hickory tea might be ok, but the Paleolithic era lacked French press machines and Starbucks, plus, conventional coffee is processed

These are a few of the perhaps less-known food philosophies of the Paleo Diet. More common is the knowledge that Paleo-approved foods are:

  • --wild meats, aka pasture-raised, free-range, grass-fed, minimally processed, safe if consumed raw from a truly wild source

  • --nuts, seeds and nut butters (Strict Paleo dieters debate whether or not nut butters are paleo-friendly; peanuts, being legumes are not approved on the Paleo diet)

  • --fruits (in moderation, seasonal, grown locally)

  • --vegetables (raw, low-starch, i.e. no potatoes)

  • --herbs

  • --natural fats (mostly from wild meats, nuts and fish oil)

The First Danger of Paleo: Carpe Diem

Listed above is a huge chunk of the Paleo diet. So, is it worth it to exclude some of your favorite foods? Perhaps that’s one of the dangers of a strict Paleo diet; the cliché, “Life is too short,” rings especially true in the winter of your life.

At age 85, are you going to remember all the carbs you cut from your diet or will you remember the sublime dinners with friends and family over endless rounds of Manchego cheese and Petite Sirah? (Disclaimer: The Miracle Noodle team doesn’t actually know if this is considered a proper pairing, but hopefully you get the idea that ‘eat, drink and be merry’--in moderation--is a more visceral motto to live by.)

While Miracle Noodle is widely considered a Paleo-friendly food, what you eat with it, could render it purely un-Paleo. There’s the obvious foods like cake for dessert after a Miracle Noodle dish (click here for a free download of the 82-page, Miracle Noodle Recipe Book), but there’s also unapproved Paleo-foods that might surprise you:

  • --beans and other legumes

  • --quinoa and other supposedly healthy grains

  • --yogurt (Paleo cavemen didn't pasteurize anything)

The reason beans, other legumes and grains are not Paleo-friendly is compounds in these types of foods commonly called ‘anti nutrients.’ Anti nutrients include protein molecules like lectin, which, in some people, can lead to digestive issues. Philosophically, legumes are not approved on the Paleo list because they were not a staple during the Paleolithic era.

The second danger of Paleo: Paleo concerns overblown?

Eating nothing but lean protein, veggies, nuts and seeds and healthy fats is great for weight loss and managing blood sugar but consuming no amount of fruit, for example, could deprive you of the phyto- (plant) nutrients that are unique to certain fruits.

A strict Paleo dieter, may, for example, exclude fruits with a reputation for being relatively high in sugar. This would include kiwis, grapes and oranges. Eliminate these fruits and you are cutting off one of the few rich sources of zeaxanthin, one of the most powerful antioxidants discovered.

Phytates are other compounds that contain anti nutrients, at least in some people, leading to chronic digestive problems. Beans contain phytates, thus the reason they are not Paleo-friendly
(they are also relatively high in carbohydrates, roughly 30-35 grams per serving). But pop/celeb Medical Doctor, Andrew Weil, believes that, in general, concerns about phytates are unfounded.

Cooking and soaking, says Weil, and other health gurus, kill off some of the phytate compounds, and when eaten with a well-balanced diet (not just grains) should not cause a serious health problem in most people. Heirloom grains (grains that have not been hybridized) such as quinoa, einkorn and emmer wheat provide long-lasting steady energy and contain phytonutrients and antioxidants as well.

The third danger of Paleo: A pound of antelope meat ain’t cheap

Bodybuilders with barely more than a few percentage points of body fat are avid followers of the Paleo Diet. But eating enough wild game to build biceps the size of basketballs is expensive.

For optimum health, it’s worth it to eliminate as much as possible, grain-fed meats and large-scale agricultural operation animal products (e.g. eggs), but, to thrive on a Paleo diet and eliminate all grains requires leaning on more protein, typically more animal protein. Eating a meat-rich diet, even if it’s wild and unprocessed, is controversial enough as to whether or not it can lead to chronic disease, but there’s no denying that buying lots of meat, especially rare (no pun intended) wild sources are expensive.

The fourth danger of Paleo: Your body may be naturally carb-crazy

Diets like the Atkins Diet (which eliminated nearly all carbs and thrived on high-fat foods like dairy) and the Paleo Diet assume that everyone thrives on a low-carb, higher protein and fat diet. While that may be true for a majority of the planet’s population, there’s enough of a minority that has a biochemistry profile more suited to a diet richer in carbohydrates, albeit not from sources that are refined/hybridized/heavily processed and high-starch.

People who do well burning more carbohydrates for optimum fuel (energy) more slowly oxidize a simple carbohydrate like white rice. It’s theoretically possible that a carbohydrate-dominant individual would have less than optimal energy if eating a high-protein/natural fat diet.

The Miracle Noodle team believes that, In general, the Paleo Diet, makes logical nutritional sense. Perhaps, though, like everything else in life, moderation is the key; if you don’t have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn's Disease, leaky gut, or other inflammatory bowel/stomach conditions, live a little and don’t worry about going strict Paleo 100 percent of the time.

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