The Paleo Diet was published originally in 2002, written by Loren Cordain, PH.D. The updated version was published in 2010. It included a new preface to explain the differences in the editions and why the changes were made. Basically, due to some studies run between the two dates, Dr. Cordain changed his mind about a few things–specifically, cooking oils and saturated fats.
The problem was, I don’t feel like these changes got as integrated into the book as they could have. When Cordain updated his stance on oils, he did a great job of updating the rest of the text concerning them. However, in the preface, he states: “I have softened my stance on the saturated fat issue as more and more data become available.” But nowhere else in the book did I notice any evidence of this. He is still strongly recommending only lean meats, organ meats, seafood, and fish as sources of protein.
I’ve been giving paleo a go for the last five weeks or so. I started the first week doing it myself, eating mostly rotisserie chicken and fresh fruits & veggies.
After that, I purchased a book called Paleo in 28, which included a 4-week meal plan that I started following. I’ll be reviewing that book soon, as soon as I finish with the meal plan.
I was a bit surprised at how many fatty types of meat (like bacon) were in the Paleo in 28 meal plan, but I wasn’t gonna complain. I mean, who complains about having to eat bacon? Not this girl!
Then I read The Paleo Diet and saw that I had been right to be surprised. Cordain says no to bacon and pasture-raised beef, and he recommends wild game above all else because it’s so low in fat. He also states that these lean meats have a better omega-3 to omega-5 fatty acids ratio, which is another reason he recommends them.
I wrote a few articles ago that there are vegans and then there are Vegans, with a capital V. Turns out, there’s Paleo with a capital P, too. I guess every nutritional lifestyle choice out there has the die-hard purists that form the very core of it, and paleo is no exception.
Dr. Cordain wants us all to be Paleo with the capital P. Unfortunately–and he admits this freely himself–it’s just not financially feasible for most people. So, I assume some people have expanded their meat selection accordingly.
And the jury is still out on saturated fats, anyway. More data is available now than in 2010, obviously. But I would argue that it’s becoming less clear under precisely what circumstances they are harmful. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t.
Cordain knows that a lot of people will be worried about their cholesterol levels while eating paleo. He addresses that point very early into the book. And it makes sense–he says that if the paleo diet raised your cholesterol, it would have fallen out of favor long ago rather than sticking around for (now) over 15 years. He actually claims that total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol will drop within your first two weeks.
I hope my bloodwork at the end of my paleo part of this journey agrees with you, Dr. Cordain! Time will tell.
Dr. Cordain isn’t a fan of “today’s low-carb diets.” The Paleo Diet clearly explains that a blanket restriction on all carbs simply isn’t the way to go. Consuming too few carbohydrates limits your consumption of cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables. We need these fruits and vegetables for more than just their antioxidant properties, as well. They help to neutralize the acidity from all the meat that you’re eating to help with your body’s acid-alkaline balance.
Interestingly, vitamin deficiencies and diseases like scurvy (a vitamin C deficiency) didn’t really start to surface until the agricultural age. Once we began to replace many of our calories with grains, we just weren’t eating as much of the meats, fruits, and vegetables that would prevent these deficiencies. On top of that, cereal grains and legumes contain “antinutrients,” which prevent your body from absorbing nutrients.
To help combat that, what did we do? We didn’t stop eating grains. Oh no. We started adding vitamins to foods. Iodine to salt. Vitamin B and iron to bread and white rice. Vitamins D and A to milk. All kinds of vitamins to cereals. But Dr. Cordain makes an excellent point:
The message should be clear: If we have to add a vitamin to a food to prevent it from causing ill health and disease, we shouldn’t be eating it in the first place.Dr. Loren Cordain, PH.D.
We’ve already learned that the calories that you get from sugar are not like calories you get from other foods. And Dr. Cordain goes one step further to argue that calories from protein are different from carbs and fats, as well.
This is due to something called the “thermic effect.” Your body uses a ton more energy to break down proteins, so eating protein boosts your metabolism and causes you to lose more weight by merely digesting it.
So what does this mean? You don’t have to cut calories to lose weight while eating a paleolithic diet.
On top of that fantastic news, protein has a powerful capacity to satisfy hunger. It influences not only how much you eat at the very next meal, but how much you’ll eat all day long. Studies have shown that eating more protein at breakfast caused people to consume fewer calories the entire day.
Okay, so grains block our absorption of nutrients. They also contribute to chronic illnesses and have a high glycemic load. I get why we shouldn’t eat them. What about legumes and potatoes?
One reason that Dr. Cordain advises against legumes is that they contain lectins, which plants evolved to ward off insects. He explains that lectins increase the permeability of our intestines and allow partially digested food proteins and remnants of gut bacteria to spill into the bloodstream. Usually, specialized cells gobble up these wayward bacteria and food proteins, but lectins impair the immune system’s ability to fight off these leaked fragments.
However, other people claim that these lectins are virtually eliminated through cooking. And if lectins really are the issue, then we need to stop eating a whole lot more vegetables and fruits, because the presence of lectins is widespread.
However, it’s definitely the case that legumes are poorly absorbed and digested by some people. So I’d argue that the case for legumes should be taken on an individualized basis. They’re not necessary for human health, so why not exclude them?
As for potatoes (not sweet potatoes–they’re allowed), Dr. Cordain seems to exclude them mostly due to their very high glycemic index.
Overall, the book is incredibly informational and full of all kinds of interesting scientific information to back up why eating this way supports our very DNA.
The Paleo Diet Book Rating: 4/5 Stars
I gave it 4/5 stars. I took off half of a star for lack of follow-ability since the majority of the American public can’t afford to eat all the wild game and fresh fish and seafood that Dr. Cordain is suggesting. I took off another half of a star due to Dr. Cordain claiming he had softened his stance on saturated fats, but then showing no real evidence of that throughout the rest of the book.
If it weren’t for those two issues, this is a 5-star book. The amount of time and effort that Dr. Cordain put into the research behind it is astounding. And the theory behind his ideas is sound.
I think what the issues come down to is that the book is simply out of date at this point. But that doesn’t change the solid, key principles behind it.
I found this interesting. Dr. Cordain warns about going “against the spirit” of the paleo diet. For example, using almond flour and olive oil and any number of other technically “allowed” foods and putting them together to create high carb, sugary, high fat baked goods. All of the ingredients may be strictly paleo, but using them to create something that approximates the precise foods we’re trying to avoid isn’t what we should be doing, he warns.
A whole lot of paleo recipes do this.
I suppose that Dr. Cordain has a point. But he also talks about how you don’t need to follow the diet 100% of the time. If your niece is having a birthday, have a piece of the cake, for goodness sake.
So, doesn’t that rationale support a case for occasionally indulging yourself and creating paleo-friendly desserts? I would think that finding paleo-friendly desserts that are still “technically allowed,” even if they go “against the spirit” of paleo, would be incentive to keep following the diet.
After all, this dietary choice is supposed to be life-long. It’s unrealistic to expect you never to have a dessert again, and if you can have it using paleo-friendly foods, all the better, right?
I’m looking forward to reading the book Practical Paleo, to see what kind of stance it takes regarding fatty meats, saturated fats, and such. I’ll also be watching a few more documentaries on the paleo lifestyle, as well. So be sure to subscribe to follow along on this journey!
You’ll notice I added a tracker to the sidebar of my website, that shows what my current nutritional “experiment” is, how I’m doing on it, how much weight I’ve lost, etc. I’ve lost a few more pounds on paleo since my last update, so it’s all going really well. It definitely works for weight loss (without restricting calories)!