What’s the deal with this Paleo craze?

Many books have been written on the merits of returning to a more basic way of eating, eliminating refined grains and processed foods, referred to as a “Paleo” diet.  You may also see the terms “Primal” or “Stone Age” diet. This harkens back to our Paleolithic days when we foraged daily for our food: hunting and gathering what was available. My household has been recently revolutionized as we cleared the pantry of all our packaged breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, chips, white flour, white rice, pasta, and white sugar and replaced them with seeds, nuts, dried fruits, almond flour, coconut flour, and buckwheat. Here’s why.

Things started to go wrong with our health when we began planting seed crops a few thousand years ago, abandoning protein for low-fat, low-protein grains. When man switched to a grain-based diet, we became shorter and lost muscle mass and brain size.  By using technology to harvest grain we could feed more people, but these people were smaller and sicker.  Then came the explosion of refined sugar.  Just one hundred years ago, the average person in North America would consume no more than 5 pound of sugar in a year.  Nowadays the typical North American consumes 150 pounds!  Refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup are in virtually every processed food you buy.  This trend has been clearly connected to the skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity.  The “Paleo” trend abandons these “staples” of our current diet.

“Paleo” eating is eating the way people did before processed foods existed: natural foods in their natural states. The basic concept is to eat only what you can hunt, fish, dig from the ground or pick from a tree or bush.

  1. Don’t eat things with a label on them. Choose real, whole foods that are nutrient dense – foods like animal protein and eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy fats.
  2. Avoid bread, unless it’s made with coconut flour or buckwheat flour (check out the specialty bakery in Penticton called “Just Pies”)
  3. Rice can be replaced with cauliflower. You can finely chop or “pulse” fresh cauliflower in a food processor and it will resemble rice, then steam or sauté it. Mashed, it looks just like mashed potato. Cauliflower is a great way to replace starch with natural fiber, and to add essential B vitamins and vitamins A, K, and C. Cauliflower also has the essential nutrients choline and calcium, plus the cancer-suppressing compound sulforaphane. Pasta can be replaced with zucchini or butternut squash cut into strips. Heat the strips in a skillet with olive oil and you’ll have a fresh pasta replacement that gives you a huge boost of vitamins A and C, and is a great source of potassium.
  4. Shop at the Farmer’s Market and pick up your vegetables fresh from the organic growers. When that’s not possible, stick to the perimeter of the Supermarket where the fresh produce is located.
  5. Eat healthy oils and healthy fats. Avoid processed vegetable oils, replacing them with extra-virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil. Avocados have amino acids, linoleic acid and 12 different minerals, as well as 13 different vitamins. One cup gives you 20% of the vitamin A, C, B6 and folate you need every day, and also gives you 160 mg of omega-3s.
  6. Choose grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, free-range eggs, and wild fish.  I recommend you eat one gram of protein for every one pound of lean muscle mass you have in your body.  That means if you weigh 160 pounds and have 20 percent body fat, you have 128 pounds of lean muscle. Your goal then is to eat 128 grams of protein for the day. Protein should be the focal point of every meal. This triggers your body to shed fat, control your appetite and build lean muscle.  Protein helps you feel full and provides long-lasting energy.

When you return to a more natural way of eating, shedding extra weight and staying healthy is much easier.  That’s the reason “Paleo” is so popular: it is a much healthier way of living.  So cut the crap, and upgrade the way you eat!

Your partner in Living Longer Better,

Dr Grant Pagdin MD

The following bibliography was compiled by Dan W. Harper, Director of Research for the UniScience Group for his booklet entitled “The Stone Age Diet And Weight Loss”:

– Abuissa H. Realigning our 21st century diet and lifestyle with our hunter- gatherer genetic identity. Directions Psych.2005;25: SR1-SR10.
– Cordain LImplications of Plio-Pleistocene Hominin Diets for Modern Humans. In: Early Hominin Diets: The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable. Ungar, P (Ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, pp 363-83.
– Eaton SB. Diet-dependent acid load, Paleolithic nutrition, and evolutionary health promotion. Am J Clin Nut.r2010;91:295–7.
– Eaton SB. Evolution, body composition, insulin receptor competition, and insulin resistance. Prev Med. 2009;49:283-85
– Eaton SB. The Ancestral Biomedical Environment In: Endothelial Biomedicine. W.C. Aird (Ed), Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 129- 134.
– Frassetto LA. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009;63(8):947- 55.
– Jew S. Evolution of the human diet: linking our ancestral diet to modern functional foods as a means of chronic disease prevention. J Med Food. 2009;12(5):925-34.
– Klonoff DC. The beneficial effects of a paleolithic diet on type 2 diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2009;3(6):1229-32.
– Lindeberg S. Biological and clinical potential of a Paleolithic diet. J Nutri Environ Med. 2003;13(3):149-160.
– OʼKeefe JH Jr. Cardiovascular disease resulting from a diet and lifestyle at odds with our Paleolithic genome: how to become a 21st-century hunter-gatherer. Mayo Clin Proc.2004;79(1):101-8.

Dr. Grant Pagdin

Dr. Pagdin is a leading expert in regenerative medicine in Western Canada. Dr. Pagdin is board-certified with the American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine (ABAARM) and a Fellow of the Interventional Orthobiologics Foundation. His primary interest is preventative and anti-aging medicine using stem cell and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatments.

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