Most of the paleo diet principles—whole foods, no dairy, lean meat—I understand. But I don’t get excluding beans and whole grains. Why no beans or whole grains?
The problem with grains and legumes is that they have anti-nutrient properties that bind to the healthy foods we eat and prevent us from properly absorbing their vitamins and minerals, and cause tears in the intestines. Over time, we get this ‘leaky gut’ syndrome, which can lead to inflammation, infection. And it’s not just in the gut—you can start to have things like auto-immune conditions, acne, difficulty sleeping, joint pain, chronic fatigue, a whole host of gastrointestinal issues. It sets the body for a system-wide meltdown.
Do people often confuse paleo and low-carb or Atkins diets?
Lots of confusion there. People will think that paleo is about eating only meat, or eating no carbs at all. They’ll say things to me like, ‘You train—how do you do training not eating any carbs?’ I ask them, ‘What do you think vegetables and fruit are?’ They’re carbs. So paleo isn’t a no-carb diet, it’s just a lower-carb diet. And eating in this balanced way sets the body to maintain homeostasis and not have peaks and crashes because of insulin and everything. This helps with weight loss, and just really helps lead the body to function properly.
Are there ‘trick foods’—like, things that most people think would be part of a paleo diet but shouldn’t be?
The first thing that comes to mind is peanuts, they’re not actually nuts, they’re legumes. Many people are allergic to peanuts, so omitting those from the diet is quite easy. It’s a very easy swap to use walnut butter or almond butter in place of peanut butter in recipes. The best nuts to go to are raw walnuts, they have the least offensive ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. In general, it’s better to use fats like olive oil, fish oil and avocado oil than nuts.
What about non-dairy milks, like almond or coconut or hemp milk—are those allowed?
If you can make coconut milk yourself, if you live in a place where you can get fresh coconut milk, that’s great. Canned coconut milk almost always has guar gum, and it’s very high in anti-nutrients. The same goes for most of the nut milks You have to read the labels diligently.
What about things like coffee? Or alcohol?
In the Paleo diet, overall, you can see that having a glass of red wine on occasions is not a big deal, and nor is a black cup of coffee. I love both. And the rest of your diet is so alkaline that you don’t have to be quite as concerned about the acididc nature of etiher of the two.
Fermented foods like tempeh or kombucha?
Tempeh is fermented soy, so no. Kombucha … I mean, did caveman drink kombucha? No, probably not. I don’t think it’s something we need to drink every day. However, say you had an antibiotic—those drugs are so strong it takes a long time to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your body, so in that case I think kombucha would be a good idea. But fermented foods in general, no, they’re not paleo.
You say in the book that “the idea is NOT ‘everything in moderation.’” Can you explain this?
The problem with the ‘everything in moderation’ approach is say you’re a healthy weight, your energy is pretty good and you have one cookie every day or something like that. Even that little bit of grain, or dairy, or legume—even that little bit is enough to lead to the onset of this acidic state in the body that we don’t want, the start of a leaky gut syndrome going on, all that. That’s why I encourage people trying the paleo diet to start 100% paleo. A little bit of gluten is enough to keep the damage going on, and you won’t really know if you’re better unless you take it all away. People try 85% paleo and they don’t feel better and they say it doesn’t work, but that’s not really paleo they’re trying.
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