Sunday, 4 May 2014

Paleo challenge: Frequently Asked Questions

03:01 Posted by Dhaval Bhandari

Paleo challenge: What is the Paleo diet?

The Paleo Diet is basically a dietary concept founded on the belief that by eating in the like manner our stone-age ancestors did and limiting our food intake to the kind of food available to them 2.5 million years ago, we will become leaner, meaner, and healthier. It is more than just a bunch of well concocted recipes. It is a whole lifestyle which also involves eating contemporary food which is similar to the food they ate and in the most natural state possible.

paleo challenge


The Paleo diet is not without scientific basis. It is backed by historical evidence, pure logic and countless studies. The same kind transformative logic is applied to essential lifestyle habits such as sleep and exercise.

Paleo challenge: What is the underlying logic behind the Paleo diet?

The underlying logic upon which the Paleo Diet hinges based is the assumption that the genetic composition of modern man has been programmed towards the diet man has been eating since the era
of our stone-age forefathers and it has not evolved much since then. For more than 2.5 million years, man has had the same natural diet consisting of wild plants and animals so much so that the human genome is believed to be already programmed towards this type of diet and the agricultural and industrial revolution in the last 10,000 years has hardly affected it. This is the transformative logic on which the Paleo Diet is based.

There is proof that our ancestors were perfectly healthy as they can be and are free of the diseases modern man suffer from today. Our genes as well as our physiology evolved from a long process of natural choices which made modern man better suited to eat the food that their genes have evolved with for millions of years.

Paleo challenge: How is the Paleo diet different from other diets?

First of all, the Paleo diet is not a fad diet. It is sustainable over the long term and promotes overall health and longevity. Unlike other diets, it is not focused on achieving just a single, specific goal such as losing weight, enhancing performance in athletic competition or merely being a part of a disease management program. Unlike those diets, the Paleo diet promotes the over-all health, well being, competitive performance and the ideal weight of individuals by creating hormonal balance in the body.

Paleo challenge: What is allowed and what is not allowed in the Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet encourages the consumption of food high in beneficial fats particularly those from animal sources, high in animal protein, and moderate intake of natural carbohydrates coming from fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. The beneficial fats should include saturated fats from coconut oil, duck fat, lard, tallow, and butter together with monounsaturated fats from avocados and olive oil.

Paleo challenge: Why should you be on this diet?

This is a simple, straightforward and easy to follow diet that requires none of the cumbersome calorie counting typical of other diets. It is the original diet humans have been programmed to eat. Following this diet gives you a bevy of benefits that is unmatched by other diets. The benefits include weight loss, muscle gain, better digestion, stronger immune system, slowed aging, more energy, better sleep, less stress, smoother skin, and stronger teeth and bones among many other things. The best part is it protects you from many of the diseases of affluence that has plagued modern man for the last 200 years such as heart disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease.

Paleo challenge: What would be a typical Paleo daily diet?

You can start your typical Paleo day with a simple breakfast of two eggs fried in butter with almond flour muffins and some bacon.

For lunch, you can have Paleo chicken fajitas or Paleo chicken salad summer wrap rolled in a leaf of Romaine lettuce. They are easy to prepare. For specific cooking instructions see our Paleo lunch recipes.

Afternoon snack can be a handful of macadamia nuts or almonds which ever you prefer or you can prepare a bowl of berries mixed with some coconut milk.

Dinner can be a simple dish of sautéed asparagus and mushrooms garnished with minced fresh rosemary springs.

Paleo challenge: Are bacon and eggs healthy?

Eggs from free ranging chickens feeding on natural diets of plants and insects and bacon from grass fed, pasture born and raised livestock should be free from antibiotics, synthetic food supplements, and growth boosting hormones. They are natural and organic and are therefore healthy.

Organic egg yolks and bacon contain generous quantities of beneficial omega-3 fat and good cholesterol. Both contain healthy saturated fat which is essential for efficient function of almost every cell in our body. Besides, saturated fats should also be our main source of calories more than the
carbohydrates.

A modest amount of rock salt in the bacon or egg is actually healthy. As for those who dislike the nitrite in bacon, there are nitrate free bacons available in the supermarkets. Nitrates are naturally occurring compounds and should not be a concern. They can be found in much higher doses in practically all vegetables.

Paleo challenge: “Cavemen eat this kind of diet because they are more physically active”

Nothing can be further from the truth than this myth floated around by detractors of the Paleo diet. While it is true that the prehistoric caveman was more physically active than the average modern man today, he didn’t eat purposely because of the physical activities he engaged in. He ate to survive and whenever he could, he would also find some time to relax, take a nap, and have a good night’s sleep.

The principle behind the caveman’s diet is simple enough for people to understand and appreciate. When you are highly active and engage regularly in daily exercises, you actually burn more of the sugar reserves called glycogens that are stored in your muscles and liver. They need to be replaced otherwise you won’t have the same level of energy for the same activity the next time around. To remedy this and restore your strength and stamina you need more carbohydrate intake. In other words you can afford to have more carbohydrate intake than the average person because of your physically active lifestyle.

Corollary to this, a person who hardly exercises and spends most of his waking hours behind a desk or on a couch watching TV must eat fewer carbohydrates otherwise any excess carbohydrate intake will be converted and stored as fat resulting in weight gain and ultimately obesity which threatens to shorten your existence on earth.

Paleo challenge: Why is sugar prohibited in the Paleo Diet when it is actually natural?

Sure enough sugar is generally a naturally occurring substance. We find it in almost everything nature produces. However, when it is refined into concentrated granules or powder and used as such like we do today it becomes poison to the human body. It is no longer in its natural diluted form. Continuous consumption of refined sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar levels which may induce strokes or lead to some other health problems like diabetes.

Fruits are the most ideal sources of sugar and carbohydrates because the absorption of sugar from the fruits we eat is tempered and slowed down by its high fiber content. Besides, the vitamins, phytonutrient, and antioxidants in the fruit prevent damage to the cells when sugar is oxidized at the cellular level. They also repair whatever damage may have already been done to the cells because of the oxidation of sugar.

We have grown used to getting our sugar fix by adding teaspoon full of refined sugar to the food we eat and the beverages we drink without realizing we are causing great damage to our own bodies. It is time we get our sugar fix from more natural sources like fruits. It is safer and healthier that way.

Paleo challenge: Cavemen died young, so why should we adopt their diet?

Again, this is another one of the many myths being floated around by detractors to discredit the Paleo diet. The truth is there is evidence which shows that our Paleolithic ancestors lived longer than what most people thought. Many of them who died young, died in the hands of other predators or by being gored by their own prey while on a hunt. Others died of starvation or accidents, but hardly any of them died of natural cause or illness.

The only reason why modern man lives longer today is because he has access to advanced medical care and technology and not because of his diet. Infectious diseases can now be largely contained and neutralized. Without modern medical facilities people today would die early. And, on the contrary, there is mounting evidence linking the modern urban diet to such life
threatening health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, kidney and liver problems, diabetes, and other diseases of affluence.

Paleo challenge: How can I stay Paleo even if I eat out often?

If you are on the Paleo diet, you should not have any worries if you have to travel and be on the road for some time. Neither should you worry if you suddenly decide to treat yourself or your family or friends to dinner out of a whim. You can stay Paleo where ever you go. The only problem would be you - how resolute you are in sticking to the Paleo lifestyle whatever you do, where ever you go, and whichever situation you may find yourself in.

In the first place, there are Paleo friendly restaurants scattered all over the country and their number is on the rise. You shouldn’t have difficulty finding one to dine in. It is not so much like the old days where you’d rarely find restaurants that serve gluten free and purely organic dishes. Today, gluten free and organic is the ‘in’ thing among restaurants from the high end classy restaurants to the regular fast food chains and shopping mall food outlets. These Paleo friendly restaurants have been sprouting like mushrooms all over the country and in many major cities all over the world. There are even Paleo food trucks roaming around some cities serving strictly Paleo dishes on the go in street corners and parking lots.

Before you go on a trip or before you dine out with friends and family, make it a habit to check out which Paleo friendly restaurants are located in place where you intend to go. List down these restaurants before you leave the house for the trip or the planned dinner with friends or family. Don’t leave the house without this list.

There may be times you may find yourself in a situation where you get invited by friends to dine out in a non-Paleo friendly restaurant. Don’t be shy to ask the waiter if they have gluten free dishes. At the same time feint an excuse why you want your meal to be gluten free like having a serious allergy to grains and meals with traces of grain in them can be fatal to you.

You can be sure they will take this seriously because if there is anything restaurant owners fear most it is having a customer develop a health condition because of their food. Oh, and don’t forget to tell them not to use vegetable oil in cooking your meal. Feint the same ‘allergy’ excuse.

Stick to your Paleo diet even when eating with friends in restaurants or when you get invited for dinner in their homes. Don’t feel like the ‘odd man out’ when you refuse some food. However, when you refuse some of the foods they serve you need to explain why so they won’t feel slighted. Just explain that what you refused may do some damage to your health.

You can take this opportunity to discuss with them the Paleo diet and the benefit of eating healthy. Who knows? You may yet win them over to the Paleo lifestyle. And even if they don’t convert to Paleo you can at least be sure that the next time they invite you over they will prepare something that is Paleo for you.

Paleo challenge: Should I go back to a normal diet after I reach my targeted weight?

Many people who go on a diet wants to lose weight so much so that they think that all types of special diet Paleo included is only for losing weight. To them, anything with the word ‘diet’ has become synonymous with weight loss.

However, the Paleo diet is more than just a weight loss formula. It is not something you should discard after achieving your ideal weight. It is instead a formula for a healthy lifestyle which you need to embrace for the rest of your life if you want a disease-free, healthier body and a longer lifespan. Besides, it makes no sense to go back to a diet which in the first place is the main reason for your being overweight. Of course, you are free to do as you wish including sliding back to your old eating habits and exposing yourself once more to heart diseases, diabetes, and other modern day afflictions that hounds man today. It’s your choice but make it good.

If you have reached your ideal weight on the Paleo diet it means it is effective and there is more reason now to stay on with it. But please take note that weight loss is just part of the beneficial effects of this diet. It will heal the damage done by modern urban diet has done to your gut and still continue to balance the hormones in your digestive system. This will take some time to achieve which means you still need to stay Paleo even long after reaching your ideal weight. Anyway, if you stay Paleo for some time you’ll get used to it and find it not only delicious but also fulfilling.

Paleo challenge: Shouldn’t we eat raw meat the way the cavemen did?

The ideal Paleo diet should include both raw and cooked meat. There is however a sub-category of Paleo adherents who believe that eating only raw Paleo meat is the ideal diet. They call it Raw Paleo. Their number is still small but it is growing. On the other hand, the majority of Paleo advocates prefer to have their meat cooked.

It would be erroneous to say that cavemen always ate their meat raw. Perhaps they did before they discovered how to start fire. But when man learned how to start fire he also learned to cook the food he ate. And there is overwhelming evidence which dates for millions of years to prove he did. Cooking makes meat more digestible and absorbable by our systems. While it is true that cooking destroys much of the meat’s nutrients, it properly compensates for this by making cooked meat easily digestible and highly absorbable. Whatever nutrients are left in the cooked meat, they easily reach every part of the body including the brain, nourishing and speeding up their growth and development in the process.

It is no wonder then why man’s brain developed faster than those of the rest of the animal kingdom. Our brain is bigger than those of the other animal species and this is because he learned to cook the food he ate which made the food easier to digest and the nutrients readily available for use by every cell in the human body.

It wouldn’t make sense however, to assume that our Paleo ancestors cooked their food as extensively as we do today. At the onset, they must have tried experimenting with it and their diet must have been a mix of cooked and raw meat.

Certainly, there is room for raw meat in the contemporary Paleo diet. In fact the optimal Paleo diet should be a mix of raw and cooked. And if you don’t have the stomach for raw meat, you can at least cook it rare or medium-rare. Or, you can try raw fish and homemade sushi for a change.

Paleo challenge: How much fat, proteins and carbs should I eat?

Unless you are an endurance athlete working out in preparation for an athletic event, there is no counting of calories or measuring of fat, protein, or carbohydrate intake for your Paleo diet. And even if you are an athlete there is no magic number or ratio of food intake which everyone must follow to gain optimum benefit from the Paleo diet. How much fat, protein, and carbohydrates a person needs depends on his individual requirements and personal circumstance.

In case you haven’t noticed, the dietary recommendations of each one of those promoting the diet differs slightly from one another. There are hardly any two recommendations that are exactly alike when it comes to recommended dietary intake.

This is because different individuals have different physical built, health condition, personal preferences, and fitness objects. Some simply like to lose weight. Others are more into rigid physical conditioning in readiness for future athletic competitions. There are also those who are into the Paleo diet as part of a health maintenance program to cure autoimmune diseases. Naturally, the nutrient requirement depends on individual requirements which will not be the same as those of the other individuals with different requirements or nutritional needs.

Certainly, the Paleo diet is no magic bullet or a cure-all solution for those who wish to pursue a healthy lifestyle or whatever their objectives maybe. Paleo is not like a ‘one size fits all’ type of a diet. And, the simplest approach to following the diet is to just eat whatever is natural and organic including a lot of beneficial animal fats.

The safest combination should be high fat, low carbohydrates, and moderate protein. But again, how high is ‘high’ and how low is ‘low’ will depend on individual needs and requirements. There are really no rules written on stone for people to follow. You may adopt a particular Paleo diet recommendation but you may have to make certain adjustments to fit your personal preference or taste. But so long as what you eat is natural and organic and belongs to the Paleo food list, it will still be Paleo.

The Paleo diet for athletes is a different story especially if the athlete is on to a rigorous training regimen. According to physical fitness coaches an athlete will need to consume 200 to 300 calories from easy to digest carbohydrate sources an hour before his scheduled workout with another 200 to 300 calories every hour thereafter for the duration of his work out. He also has to take another 200 to 300 calories within 30 minutes after the workout to help the body recover from the strenuous workout.

Paleo challenge: Are supplements allowed?

Doctors would normally recommend supplements to persons with specific health conditions consistent with severe vitamin deficiencies otherwise they would instead recommend a diet rich in the deficient vitamins or minerals.

The Paleo diet is already dense in vitamins and minerals which the body needs. Unless the deficiency is serious enough to require ‘shock treatment supplements are totally unnecessary. Besides, most supplements are synthetically produced. Or, they may come from organic extracts but they still contain synthetic ingredients. They can do more harm than good to your body in the long term. If you are on the Paleo diet there is no more need for supplements. It will just be a waste of your money since the diet has all the nutrients you need.

All you need to do is stay with the diet and let it heal your body naturally – without supplements. Give it sufficient time to work your body and heal it from years of damage caused by the food you’ve been eating ate. In time your gut will finally have the ideal hormonal balance it needs to function efficiently.

If you are from a northern county or work indoors most of the time chances are you are vitamin D deficient. Go out under the sun more often and for longer periods. You’ll get all the vitamin D you need from sunlight. What is more it is free.

Paleo challenge: Is there a break-in period to the Paleo diet?

Weaning over to the Paleo diet from your old diet you will need may require an adjustment period of about 3 to 4 weeks. It is no joke to make a sudden shift to a low carb diet when your body is so used to being bombarded with high carb doses everyday for many years. You may encounter some dizziness or feel lighthearted most of the time. You may even be edgy and irritable. These are normal bodily reactions if you start taking less than 50 grams of carbohydrates which is all that the Paleo diet will give you every single day. But don’t worry because these withdrawal symptoms will soon blow over. And as you get used to the diet more and more each day, you will start to feel highly energized.

The Paleo diet has a detoxing effect on your body. It starts to get rid of the toxins that have accumulated in your muscles cells all these years. These toxins are released to the blood stream and ultimately excreted out of your body by your system. You will be experiencing detoxing symptoms such as dizziness or irritability during this stage but this is only temporary. You will only experience such symptoms while the diet is still cleansing your body after that you will feel energetic and active.

Paleo challenge: How about withdrawal symptoms?

You may experience caffeine withdrawal headaches or the so called ‘low carb flu’ manifested in ways like feeling weak, feeling tired, having headaches, or other similarly light symptoms. You need not worry because they will disappear in a few days. Just remain resolute and stick to the diet. Everyone who weaned over to the Paleo diet always come out grateful because the discomfort they went through for a short period of time was nothing compared to the immeasurable benefits they gained from it.

Paleo challenge: How long will it be before I start feeling better on a Paleo diet?

After 14 to 30 days on the diet the average person should start feeling the full beneficial effects of going Paleo. Of course this may vary from person to person depending on how each one strictly follows the diet. If you go strict Paleo right from day one you may experience more intense but shorter detoxing syndromes. But, you will feel much better from the fourteenth day onwards.

Paleo challenge: Aren’t fish and sea foods dangerous because of high levels of mercury in them?

Fish or any food for that matter which has high levels of mercury is hazardous to your health. This is especially true for industrially produced farmed fish or those that have been raised in fish pens or cages. However, the truth is fish caught wild from the ocean has less mercury content than the vegetables we buy from the supermarket. Fish should be an integral part of the Paleo Diet because it is the best source of high levels of Omega 3. That is why the next time you buy fish you should check the labels to make sure it is not farmed fish but fish caught from the ocean. The better option is to buy fish from the fisherman’s wharf if you live near one.

Paleo challenge: Is the Paleo diet a mere fad diet?

The Paleo diet is more than a programmed food intake. It is a total lifestyle that revolves around eating only natural and organic food stuff. It can’t be a fad since this kind of diet has been in existence for millions of years. It is definitely sustainable for a lifetime and not something people can easily lose interest on after some time.

Paleo challenge: Isn’t this just like Atkins?

Many people mistakenly think so. On the onset, they do look similar but if you look at them closer you’ll discover that there are significant differences between the two that sets them apart. For one thing the Paleo diet allows you to eat as much fresh fruits as you like – no restrictions while Atkins only allows controlled portions and not all fresh fruits are allowed.
But the most important difference between the two is the fact that the Atkins diet allows consumption of a lot of processed meats and saturated fats. The Paleo diet on the other hand bans all processed meats and puts emphasis on animal protein and beneficial fats from grass fed, free ranging livestock only.

Paleo challenge: Can the Paleo Diet really help you lose weight?

The simple answer is yes. Weight loss is but a positive residual effect of the Paleo diet. Its real value is in keeping you healthy, fit, and feeling so much better for the long haul. Do not expect it to be quick fix for weight gain. You will lose weight alright but it won’t be so dramatic. Rather, it will be a gradual process which makes it highly manageable and truly sustainable and more permanent. With the Paleo diet the body is taught to use fat for energy and limit its dependence on carbohydrates for energy. In the process there will hardly be any excess fat to be stored and whatever fat is there will be converted into energy to power cell functions. You also get to avoid high carbohydrate intake which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.

The bottom line is majority of people who adopted the Paleo diet achieved significant weight loss after being in the diet for some time. The good news is it permanently corrects the body’s dependence on carbohydrates and you’d be able to maintain your ideal weight with hardly any effort.

Paleo challenge: What can I get from following the Paleo Diet?

Obviously, weight loss is one of the more significant benefits you can gain from following the diet. There are tons of other benefits it provides like getting to sleep much better every night, improved skin complexion, improved sex drive (if you want to consider it significant), improved digestion, clearer mind, and increased energy. The Paleo diet heals your body back to its original condition much like overhauling a car and repairing damaged parts. It can cure such diseases as Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases.

Paleo challenge: Won't you get bored eating almost the same thing everyday?

Theoretically, the answer would be yes you may get bored. The Paleo diet do not have an extensive line of sumptuous recipes as what you have been used to for years and may definitely taste differently with sugar and salt intentionally left out. But if you consider the fact that our body looks for variety only because it is not getting optimal nutrition from the food you eat then you’ll better appreciate and understand why Paleo converts are sticking to the diet for good.

Your choices of food on the Paleo diet may be limited but they give you optimal nutrition which ultimately curves your cravings for variety. Besides, it is not true that the Paleo lacks variety. The Paleo recipes included in this book are just a few of the many Paleo dishes you can find around. And they are by no means less sumptuous.

People tend to think of the Paleo diet as another one of those bland and tasteless slimming diets. Nothing can be further from the truth and the thousands of recipes you will discover online is proof of this. You can have a variety of healthy foods without venturing out of the Paleo guidelines. While many choose to stick to a simple diet, you can elect to have variety in your own Paleo meals and a simple online search will help you do that with ease.

Paleo challenge: Why should I avoid adding salt to my food?

Intake of salt as well as grains, legumes, and cheese create a highly acidic environment in our bodies and put a tremendous stress on our kidneys. As an autoimmune response, the body is forced to tap the calcium reserves in our bones to neutralize the acidity and restore balance once more. The net effect of this however leads to degenerative diseases like osteoporosis.

Paleo challenge: Grains have fibers, minerals, and vitamins so why should I take it out from my diet?

The little known fact about whole grains is that they contain an indigestible substance called phytate which stores energy and the element phosphorous in the grain. Phytate is the salt form of phytic acid which binds the magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium in our intestines and effectively leading them out of our bodies preventing them from being absorbed by our system. Mammals including humans cannot digest phytate because we don’t have the enzyme phytase. Without which it can’t be digested or broken down leaving it to wreck havoc by blocking the much needed nutrients we mentioned above from being absorbed by the body. This in effect makes grains anti nutrients.

We do need fiber in our diet fruits and vegetables can provide the fibers we need. Fruits and vegetables are healthier sources of fibers than grain which do more damage than good to our bodies. Unlike the fibers found in grains, the fiber in fruits and vegetables are highly soluble and are easily assimilated into our system without doing damage to the walls of the intestines which grain fibers notoriously do. On top of that, fruits and vegetables contain more B vitamins and folate than grain. It doesn’t make sense to continue consuming grain which has less nutrients and does more damage to our system when we can get more nutrients from healthy sources such as fruits and vegetables without risking damage to our intestines.

Paleo challenge: Can a vegetarian be on Paleo Diet at the same time?

The simple answer to this is no. They have to choose between the two because of fundamental difference which prevents them from mixing together like water and oil. For example, most
vegetarians depend heavily on the use of grains and legumes like beans, peas, as their main source of carbohydrates for their daily calorie requirements. As you well know by now grains and legumes are not allowed in the Paleo diet. They are anti-nutrients and cause chronic inflammation of the intestines a condition called leaky gut which is a precursor to many autoimmune and heart diseases as well as cancer.

Besides that a strictly vegetarian diet deprives the body of the much needed nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are normally found packed in animal food sources. The vegetarian diet specifically leads to deficiencies in vitamins D, B6, and B12 and essential minerals like iron, zinc, and iodine and beneficial nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and taurine.

Paleo challenge: Is the paleo diet going to punch a hole in my pocket?

It is a fact that processed foods produced in large quantities are cheaper than organically grown fresh food. Without a doubt, going strictly Paleo is going to cost you more. However, if you think of the longer term is going to free you from the travails of the modern urban diet and save you from future medical expenses you are likely to incur once you get afflicted with the many diseases resulting from prolonged consumption of processed food. In the end you are likely to spend more in medical bills than the money you saved by buying cheaper processed foods.

Paleo challenge: Is it practical to bring a Paleo pack lunch to work?

Why not? A pack lunch consisting of vegetable salad topped with grilled chicken breast is easy to prepare. Add an apple or a bag of nuts and pack some vegetables and you have a perfect lunch to go. And if you don’t have the time to prepare a meal yourself you can try the prepackaged Paleo meals which are now available from several online sources and in several choices. Just reheat it in a microwave oven at your workplace and you have a hot, healthy lunch.

Paleo challenge: Do I have to go to specialty food store to buy my Paleo food stuff?

Natural organic foods are not only available in specialty shops like Trader Joe’s. They can be found even in your neighborhood supermarket. You just need to read the labels carefully. If you want to really be sure what you are getting is natural and organic then make it a habit to visit the farmer’s market near you. You’ll get them fresh there. For organic meat and poultry, the best way is to get them direct from the certified producers. You can do this by join any CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) organization. I am sure there is one near you. Not only can you be sure that you will you get your meat and poultry from organically raised and grass fed livestock, you’d also be able to buy them fresh and at remarkably cheaper prices.