Ojai Natural Foods hopes to inspire people to take more of an interest in their nutrition and health. The following represents the founder's synthesis, interpretation, and organization of available information on the subject of Paleo. These views are is not a substitute for the advice of your doctor.
A "paleo" approach to health provides a broad framework for guiding daily choices about diet, fitness, medicine, and supplementation. A paleo diet is a type of gluten-free diet and very trendy, perhaps even gimmicky. Nonetheless, because such diets potentially have much to offer individuals a path to improved health, we see not see paleo as merely a fad. Even if you don't want to adhere to such a diet, understanding its principal is still a worthy pursuit.
1. Macronutrients - eat more fats and protein. Anyway, the big picture is that Paleo diets are much higher fat, slightly higher protein, and much lower in carbohydrates compared to a standard FDA sanctioned western diet. As a reference, FDA's new 2018 guidance for macronutrients (not easy to find) is 55% carbohydrates, 35% fat; 10% protein - based on new FDA defined DVI and a 2000 calorie standard diet. Although there is no consensus regarding overall percentages a Paleo diet should have - consuming 50% to 60% of calories from fat is not an unheard amount that is sometimes quoted. While these amounts may seem high, keep in mind that fat has 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and protein. Hence, to obtain 50% of your calories from fats, you only have to be sure that 30% of your consumed macronutrients (fats, protein, carbohydrates) are fats. Anyway, as you can see, Paleo is about eating more fat.
- In the Paleo world, Gluten grains, for a host of reasons, are deemed not healthy, and whole grains are no better than refined grains. That said, soaked and sprouted whole grains, however, are considered an improvement as sprouting tends to eliminate toxins and anti-nutrients in the grains.
- Gluten-free pseudo-grains (like buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa) are not as disfavored as gluten grains, but the issue is controversial. Most important for Paleo use is that if used, these psuedo grains must be provided they a soaked and sprouted.
- However, consumption of carbohydrates still needs to be limited.
- Avoid fruit and fruit juice, no matter how natural. They are simply too concentrate with sugar, particularly fructose, which is hard on the liver.
- Avoid added sugar, corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, jams
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Natural sweeteners like stevia are ok but are still a crutch.
- Saturated Fats. Although FDA guidance and most health professionals recommend limiting saturated fats, Paleo diets do not avoid or attempt to limit saturated fats - the type of fat most common in animal fats.
- Animal fats (high in saturated fats) are fine -- like butter, ghee, lard, and tallow
- Unrefined oils are better than refined.
- Avoid fried food in restaurants as the oil they are cooked in is old and rancid (oxidized)
- However, Paleo diets have long avoided hydrogenated fats as they contain high levels of trans fat which are now known to be so unhealthy they have been essentially banned by the FDA.
- Omega-6. It is very important in Paleo Diets to eliminate the use of modern oils (high in Omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid) and watch out for nuts which typically have high Omega-6
- Dramatically increase consumption of foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. Western diet typically 17:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. The key is to be more balanced - like 2:1. Foods with flaxseed, chia, hemp seed, fish, or fish oil supplements are a good source.
- While Omega-3 fats are clearly good for you, the FDA regulations do not provide daily intake guidance for Omega-3, no doubt because of the multitude of conflicting economic interests involved. Nonetheless, credible websites like Dr. Axe's (draxe.com/omega-3-foods) recommend 4250 mg per day of Omega-3 and blame deficiencies in Omega-3 for a litany of ailments including - "inflammation (sometimes severe); higher risk for heart disease and high cholesterol; digestive disorders; allergies; arthritis; joint and muscle pain; mental disorders like depression; poor brain development; and even cognitive decline."
- While there is no recommended daily intake amount for Omega-3 recommended by the FDA, the FDA has ruled that up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids a day through fish oil is GRAS - a technical designation meaning that up to that amount is "generally regarded as safe."
4. Protein. Although hunter/gatherers are thought to have consumed a lot of protein, the scientific community seems to think 15% of calories from protein is a good estimate. Paleo diet culture is not high protein culture and thus 20% (twice the FDA recommended amount) seems to anchor the high end of what is oft recommended in Paleo circles.
- Eat More
- Eat more meat and be sure not to overlook organ meats. FYI, meat provides 85%+ calories from protein.
- Eggs, preferably from pastured chickens. Yokes are better than whites. FYI eggs provide 30% calories from protein.
- Although controversial, those who believe dairy is consistent with paleo ideals recommend high-fat over low-fat dairy and preferably raw or fermented. FYI whole milk is 21% calories from protein.
- Fermented and cultured foods -- like yogurt, kefir, and homemade sauerkraut -- are beneficial for your gut bacteria.
- soy because it adversely affects the thyroid (i.e. goitrogenic) and contains estrogen-mimicking hormones which are known to cause health issues. However, fermented soy like Japanese miso and natto might be an ok possibility.
- beans and other legumes because of toxins and antinutrients. If you choose to eat them, they need to be soaked to make them more digestible.
8. Vegetables. Vegetable consumption in paleo seems neither promoted nor discouraged. However, keep in mind that vegetables are typically high in carbohydrate, low in fat, and low in protein so from a macronutrient point of view, such consumption is not overly consistent with Paleo ideals. That said, being anti-vegetable is probably not a stigma the Paleo community wish to accrue. All in all, best to choose vegetables with other significant nutritional benefits. For instance, spinach (excluding its water) is 36% protein (a favored macronutrient) and 33% dietary fiber (a carbohydrate buy not as glycemic as sugars and starch). Anyway, Paleo sources say to be careful of the goitrogenic effects of some vegetables, particularly when eaten raw.
9. Supplement v Real Food. Best to eat real food, but specific supplements may be required - vitamin D& K, iodine, selenium, magnesium, selenium, potassium, fish and od liver oil.
10. Finally, with Paleo diets, there is nothing wrong with skipping meals periodically, particularly when good food isn't available. Also, periodic fasting is also can help improve health.