Is the Paleo diet really healthy?

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Is the Paleo diet really healthy?

Is the Paleo diet really healthy?

 

Lately, it feels like more than a few vegans are jumping ship. Whether it’s Ellen eating eggs or Alexandra eating meat again (you remember Martin Spurlock’s vegan wife in the movie Supersize Me?), one has to wonder: what is all the rage about?

 

While I don’t begrudge these vegans in any way (you all know my open and non-judgemental approach), I suspect this all points back to a relatively new “healthy” diet has hit the scene in a major way – the Paleo diet.

 

This has many people now wondering: is the Paleo diet really healthy?

 

For those who don’t know, the Paleo Diet is a supposed return to our original ancestral diet, one devoid of all processed foods, grains, and instead very high in meat, game and plant foods.

 

I appreciate that they advocate low sugar, no-dairy, as well as grain-fed, hormone free meat but the diet is not based in any sort of science.

 

Especially, it is not backed by the numerous scientific studies that plant-based eating is and most of its proponents are cashing in on broadly-stated, exaggerated claims.

 

For many health-seekers, it is clearly an easier “sell” (meat 3 times a day is healthy? Sure!). 

 

In a time where North American (and world-wide health) is at it’s worst, with heart disease, diabetes and cancer at an all-time peak, the Paleo Diet is causing many people to flock back to consuming vast, vast amounts of meat despite scientific studies proving that higher meat consumption is equated with higher rates of chronic disease (for more in-depth nutrition facts visit here & here).

 

As well, science is showing that a plant-based diet is simply the healthiest diet for cancer prevention.

 

With rates of chronic disease rising every day – causing a virtual health crisis in most of the developed world – the last thing humans need is to consume MORE meat.

 

However, what the Paleo diet fails to mention is that the food early humans ate is still largely under debate, except for the fact we ate a lot of plant foods.

 

How much meat humans ate is highly speculative and – if they did – it was likely in the capacity of scavengers and out of convenience. It certainly wasn’t 3 times a day, 7 days a week!

 

Keep in mind that there is NO speculation whether humans ate plant foods – that is an absolute given.

 

One of the biggest flaws in the Paleo diet is the failure to realistically account for how much meat early humans ate, which was likely very little. 

 

Yet, open up any Paleo Diet cookbook and it advises to eat meat 3 or more times per day – three or more times per day, even breakfast!

 

Granted, it is usually advocated to buy grain-fed hormone free meat and enjoy it with a vegetable dish but – still – meat 3 times a day? It takes humans 2-3 days to digest meat, since our digestive tract is 3-4 times longer than that of a carnivore like a tiger.

 

As well, many people who have innocently tried the Paleo Diet in hopes of better health have noticed a striking side effect: a drastic climb in their cholesterol.

 

Decades and decades of ground-breaking research prove that high rates of bad cholesterol are harmful to human health and can cause a slew of chronic diseases, drastically contributing to heart disease.

 

And eating all this cooked meat flies in the face of evidence that shows how carcinogens, AGEs and other harmful substances that result from meat cooked at high temperatures (like in barbecue or oven at high temp), are so harmful for human health.

 

And, lest we forget, that human rates of colon cancer is highly linked to excessive meat consumption. The human digestive tract is from 10 – 12 feet while carnivores are 3-4 feet (meaning we take a lot longer to digest meat). Read my post here to see why Humans Were Designed to be Herbivores.

 

Do we all have to be vegan? No!

 

I’m not saying that we all have to be herbivores. Those of you who know me, know that I advocate balance, most of the time.

 

While I avoid meat for multiple reasons, I don’t expect the whole world be vegan. However, meat should be consumed as a side-dish, or a small delicacy, several times a week, if at all.

 

Meat consumed in excess is linked to a host of diseases and ill-health and right now, the effects of this are crippling the world (with a few other variables like sugar, processed food, etc).

 

And what about sustainability?

 

Advocating the consumption of excessive meat is truly not sustainable as a planet.

 

Right now we can barely keep up with all the emissions from meat production and all the agricultural tragedies that are occurring as a part of large-scale agricultural farming practices.

 

Our planet could simply not sustain 7 billion meat eaters who ate meat three times a day.

 

And, if none of this resonates with you, read my post on why humans have the digestive tracts of herbivores; just because we ate meat as scavengers was most likely a by-product of being really hungry and out of convenience – not necessarily because it was the “ideal” food for us.

 

As well, visit my picture gallery to reverse the way you think about being strong and eating meat.

 

The Paleo Diet, while has some bonuses, is a fad diet that is not proven scientifically. Unlike a balanced, plant-based diet (and scientific studies that support this as a healthy choice), think twice before adopting a Paleo diet.

 

So back to my plate of delicious edamame beans? Yup, sounds good to me! 

 

Did you like this article? Do you care to differ? What are your experiences with the Paleo Diet? Weigh in below!

 

 

© 2013, ohmyraw!. All rights reserved.

 

3 Comments

  1. I agree with you Sarah. The Paleo diet or any new diet that comes in a big way with lots of advertising must be looked at critically. We are intelligent humans and must not let ourselves be told what to eat in a biased way. I think people are looking for variety and the industry cashes on it. Its Food Politics as Marion Netsle has aptly titled her book.
    We have evolved over the centuries and so has our digestive tract. So, it makes no sense to think we can digest all that the early humans did. Our daily activities must also become similar to the Early humans if we choose to adopt their diet.
    Why do we let ourselves be made to believe that extracting out pieces of a whole are better for us.
    Its like extracting sugar from beets and saying its healthy to eat sugar because it comes from beets…
    I am appalled at the logic marketing throws at us and even more dismayed at how quickly people buy into it without doing their own research.
    High time we started thinking of ourselves as evolved and intelligent humans and not the Early Stone age Man…we’ve come a long way and unless we respect our own body and mind, noone else will.

    Thanks for posting this article.

    • Hi Sarah, Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. It will allow me to demonstrate a further point. See the funny thing is, the human digestive tract has actually not evolved that much. So, that we ate about 100 grams a fibre a day back then, we still need a tonne of fibre but humans are barely ever getting 15 or 20 grams per day.

      The unfortunate thing is that the Paleo diet is trying to brainwash us into thinking that prehistoric humans were mainly meat eaters, when that is so far from the truth. And from what anthropologists do know, we ate meat far, far less than we even think. In fact, the length of our digestive tracts are a huge indicator (i.e. 10-12 feet vs a carnivore’s tract at 3-4 feet long). Teeth are another indicator (our molars are great for grinding leaves and grains, unlike a tiger’s sharp teeth). Just because we ate meat occasionally doesn’t mean it was optimal.

      So, I totally agree that we have to assess each new trend/fad very critically – thank you. The evidence for the benefit of a plant-based diet, high in whole foods, is accumulating at such a fast rate that I hope it will dissuade people opting for a Paleo diet long term.

      Thank you for reading and being a lovely subscriber :-)

      Sarah

  2. Hi Sarah,
    I have been ‘paleo’ for several months now and feeling great BUT worry about the high meat content that they go on about. I myself function better without meat everyday, and have started to slowly incorporate meatless mondays but feel unprepared of what to make for dinner as paleo can’t have grains. I worry about grains and the affect they can have on the digestive system, so I rarely eat brown rice anymore and soaked the rice for like 24hours before eating as I was worried about the phylates and whatever else is meant to be harmful for the digestive system. My life has change less than 6 months ago when i stopped eating chocolate from the supermarket and got rid of wheat/gluten ect and I only have small amounts of diary. I have been having a smoothie now and then for some time now but have only within the last few months adding spinach leaves, and I also have grated carrot, few dates, frozen berries and banana, and I dont use milk but coconut water. Is this ok you think? I did the 21 day sugar detox and since then have been scared of eating too much fruit! all i can think about is my blood sugar rising!! I plan to do health coaching through the institute for integrative nutrition at some stage as I know what I want to do! and am thinking about your smoothie training modules also! I guess I am just sort of stuck and dont know which is right or wrong, but mainly have been trying to listen to my body on what I should eat and not eat.
    Anyway, I’ve pretty much read everything on your website!! I’ve soaked it all up like a sponge!! Thanks heaps :)

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