Can We Stop Trash Talking Paleo, Please?

It’s one thing when someone tries a paleo diet and decides for personal reasons, whatever they may be, that they actually do want to eat bread, or cheese or whatever other food that may not happen to be part of the approach.

Each and every one of us can decide what we want to put in our mouths, so whether it’s because they found it too hard to grocery shop and prepare their own food, or didn’t learn the nuances of how to fit it practically into their daily regime, for some, it ends up being a short-lived experiment, nothing more, nothing less.

So be it; no bones to pick with that.

One the other hand, though, one thing that drives me absolutely nuts is when paleo is positioned not just as a trendy fad diet, which, given all the media hype about it, as well as all the varying permutations of it, is easy to misunderstand, but when it’s presented as something so off the mark from what it really is.

And a recent article in The Huffington Post did just that.

In Final Blow to the Paleo[1], the author, Dr. Raphael Kellman, opens by stating in the very first sentence that he has “watched as the “Paleo” movement gained popularity, inspiring people to eat an enormous and ridiculous amount of meat”.

He goes on to add that Paleo is “based on a simplistic premise”, is simply a “misguided trend” and “ignores the fact that the micro biome is one of the biggest factors in good health and negatively impacted by excessive meat”.

Throughout the article the reference to eating excessive meat comes up time and time again and one of his two citations comes from a study done on, guess what? The effects of meat consumption on cancer rates.

The other theme in the article is the focus on what is referred to as the “micro biome diet” with many references as to why, in his opinion, paleo is a “metabolic misfit when it comes to the health and well being of humans, intestinal micro biome and long term good health”.

I shudder when I consider which version(s) of the Paleo diet he’s been referencing.

Because it’s not the real one.

Rather than exhaustively explaining what a real Paleo diet is, or isn’t, let’s focus specifically on the two main issues on the table: excessive meat consumption and complete disregard for the intestinal micro biome.

A true Paleo diet is comprised of 19-35% protein, 22-40% carbohydrate and 28 – 47% fat[2].

Is a third of one’s calories from protein really high enough to be considered extreme?

Perhaps if compared to the USDA’s recommendation that we should eat 0.8 grams of protein for every 2 pounds of body weight[3] it appears higher, but extreme?

In addition, the recommendation is for protein as a broad category with an emphasis on wild fish, rich in Omega 3s, as well as grass fed meats and bison, both of which provide meat which is vastly different than that we get if we choose grain fed beef.

Research spanning three decades supports the argument that grass-fed beef has a more desirable SFA lipid profile as compared to grain-fed beef. Grass-finished beef is also higher in total CLA (C18:2) isomers, TVA (C18:1 t11) and n-3 FAs on a g/g fat basis. This results in a better n-6:n-3 ratio that is preferred by the nutritional community. Grass-fed beef is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and cancer fighting antioxidants such as GT and SOD activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries [4].

And what about the purported oversight of the intestinal micro biome?

Funny, it turns out that hunter-gatherers display much better microbial profiles than those of people following the typical Western Diet[5] and a real Paleo diet, based on fresh, local seasonal vegetables, natural fats and wild proteins actually supports gut health[6].

The author concludes by writing that his suggested approach includes a focus is on “plant foods that are prebiotic in nature like jicama, garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichoke and radish”.

All of the above can have a place in a real paleo diet.

He mentions including fermented food and again, another reminder about not eating too much beef.

The piece ends with a take away that the “micro biome diet focuses on health and healing from the inside out” and a suggestion that “it’s time for the new Paleo-the true health movement- the micro biome diet”.

But this is no different from what the paleo diet does! It allows us to heal ourselves from the inside out!

The key is being able to separate what the real deal is from one of the many, heavily watered down versions, which in some cases, is so far off the mark it may as well be called something completely different.

And this is where the whole labeling of this particular eating approach gets out of hand and does a huge disservice to our society.

How about if the word didn’t exist and we simply said it’s a good idea to eat fresh, local, in season produce, wild fish, grass fat meat and ample, natural fat?

And that we should count the number of steps it took from the food to get from the fields, gardens or range to our plate?

And that we should opt for fresh not packaged?

Oh, and here’s a revolutionary thought!

How about if we also just tested how we feel if we eat that way compared to how we feel if we eat inflammatory foods that can cause leaky gut and a disturbance of the gut micro biome in the first place? (Some of those very same inflammatory foods are included in the author’s approach including high fiber legumes and grains).

And this is precisely why I mentioned how I feel when I come across an article like this.

The bottom line is that there are many people who could learn that if they take control of what they’re eating and choose foods in the manner suggested above and could then begin to heal themselves, profoundly changing their state of health and lives for the better.

And that’s what it’s all about.

Not about saying you’re Paleo to be part of a trend or misinterpreting its intentions to quickly lose weight because some actor said that was their trick.

We’re in a huge state of crisis here and the message of eating properly needs to be consistent.

And if we read between the lines of this piece, after we’ve cleared up a couple of misconceptions, the author is not really saying anything different from what someone who teaches a paleo approach is.

Again, the common goal is to focus on healing from the inside out.

So let’s take away the labels, band together and stop bashing Paleo and just tell folks to eat real food! (And move!)

[1] Kellman, Dr. Raphael. “Final Blow to the Paleo.” The Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015

[2] Cordain, Loren. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2011. Print

[3] Healthy Eating. USDA, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.


[4] Daley, Cynthia A., Amber Abbott, Patrick S. Doyle, Glenn A. Nader, and Stephanie Larson. “A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef.” Nutrition Journal. BioMed Central, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2015

[5] Schnorr SL, Candela M, Rampelli S, et al. Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers. Nat Commun. 2014;5:3654.

[6] “Your Microbiome and Obesity | The Paleo Diet.” The Paleo Diet. N.p., 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 Dec. 2015