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Paleo Diet Controversies

The Paleo diet has become popular, almost everywhere you look it seems like people are talking about the Paleo diet. Several celebrities have adopted the Paleo diet, giving it additional media attention. But the popularity of the diet has also caused some people to question if the Paleo diet is any good. In several surveys of diets, doctors, dietitians and nutritionists have ranked the Paleo diet close to the bottom.

Many diets are controversial, Paleo is just one of several diets which has many enthusiastic followers who swear by it while the so-called experts say that there are plenty of better diets. But the Paleo diet has become one of the most discussed diets, making the controversy bigger.

You can find plenty of people who say that the Paleo diet has changed their life, helping them to lose weight and improve their health and well being. But a lot of people are questioning the efficiency of the Paleo diet. Let’s go through some of the main controversies about the Paleo diet.

First it is worth pointing out that despite being a popular diet, not many large studies have been done about the Paleo diet. Many experts simply classify it as a fad which will soon be replaced by something else.

A lot of experts have rated the Paleo diet as poor diet for losing weight. This is not really a big surprise since the Paleo diet is not primarily a weight loss diet. It is possible to lose weight but this requires that you burn more calories than you eat. It is not so much a question of diet as eating less and exercise more. If you want to lose weight by following the Paleo diet, you should combine this with regular exercise. Not just relaying on the diet.

A lot of experts say that the Paleo diet is difficult to follow. Although the Paleo diet includes a lot of various foods, it excludes for example refined sugar, dairy, legumes and grains. This often creates practical problems. Going out dining with friends can turn out to be a nightmare, far from all restaurants serve Paleo food. Another thing to be aware is that if you are going to adopt a strict Paleo diet, you have to be prepared to spend a fair bit of extra money on healthy Paleo food.

For many, the biggest problem is the exclusion of dairy products and grains. It is difficult to avoid such food unless you plan your meals very well. This is also a reason why many versions of the Paleo diet allow for some exceptions. Following a strict Paleo diet quickly turns out be a tough exercise. On the other hand, very few experts have labelled the Paleo diet as unhealthy or dangerous. Just be aware that you may not get enough calcium and try to eat lean meat to avoid consuming too much fat.

One hot topic is Paleo diet and children. A book with Paleo recipes for babies and toddlers caused a controversy in Australia. Some government officials feared that the food promoted in the book could be harmful for babies and toddlers. No research is available about Paleo diet and small children but it can be prudent to not let young children adopt the Paleo diet, just to be on the safe side.

Quick and Easy Paleo Snacks

Snacks may not be necessary from a strict nutrition point of view but once in a while you really want a snack. Fortunately, there are plenty of different Paleo snacks which are quick and easy to prepare.

First of all, fresh fruits are excellent snacks and despite that many of them contain plenty of sugar they are still part of most Paleo diets. Just remember that the fruit you buy in the supermarket is much sweeter and contains less fibers than fruits which were available a couple thousands years ago. Vegetables are also good Paleo snacks. Nuts and dried fruits have the advantage that they can be stored for a long time, making it easy for you to have snacks available at home.

Still, even if you are not into fruits or vegetables, you have plenty of simple Paleo snacks to choose from. Here just a few suggestions, all of which are quick and easy to prepare.

An easy solution is to buy energy bars, there are plenty of Paleo-friendly bars, even Paleo Diet Bars. They are easy to store and can generally be stored for quite some time. Energy bars are available in a wide variety of tastes, not all of them are Paleo though. You can also make your own Paleo bars to ensure that they contain just the ingredients you want.

You can make many kinds of delicious Paleo muffins and you can put them into the freezer so that you can enjoy your muffins for the next few weeks. Obviously, normal muffins are not Paleo food, they contain plenty of ingredients that are non-Paleo. Fortunately, it is easy to create muffins using just Paleo ingredients. Use almond flour instead of normal flour. Banana muffins seems to be very popular and they are easy to make. But you can of course make all kinds of muffins, don’t be afraid of testing some new ingredients.

If you want meat, chicken or bacon let you create a lot of different snacks quickly. Bacon can be wrapped around a lot of food, for example asparagus or eggs, creating a nice snack. Chicken meat can be cheap but remember that it may not be as healthy as you would like. Beef Jerky is of course a very convenient snack, it can be stored for a long time and easy to bring along when you are traveling.

Fish is a splendid for snacks. One drawback is that if you want fish that can be stored for long time, it will typically be less healthy food than fresh fish. Still, tuna in olive oil is very good and easy to take with you when you travel. Smoked salmon can be combined with eggs and much else to create a delicious snack quickly. Shrimp cocktails are easy to make, at least if you don’t mind using frozen shrimps, and they can be made very tasty.

Burn fat instead of sugar

Low carb diets aim at getting your body to use fat instead of sugar as energy source. Your body has only two sources of fuel, fat or sugar. While your body can only store limited amounts of sugar, your body has plenty of fat to burn. Note that this is true even if you are not overweight.

This was explained very well in Stu Mittleman’s book Slow Burn. Mittleman was an ultradistance running champion, he ran 1000 miles in less than 12 days and 577 miles in six days. He had trained his body to use the fat instead of sugar as energy source. This made it possible for him to run such incredible distances over several days. Mittleman consumed very little carbs, this was the main way how he to turn his body into a fat burning running machine.

Nowadays, the Paleo Diet is also aiming at getting your body to rely on fat as fuel instead of sugar. Fat and protein have been the main sources of nutrients for mankind until modern society changed us. Nowadays, most people rely on carbohydrates as their main source of nutrients. One problem with this is that your body can store only a limited amount of energy as sugar, which means that you need to keep on consuming carbs in order to avoid running out of energy. Or to put in a more scientific way, a high-carb diet leads to excess production of insulin, which is needed to decrease the glucose level. This leads to fatigue and cravings for quick energy from carbohydrates.

By cutting down on carbs, you can achieve low levels of insulin, which lets you enjoy stable energy levels. This allows you to reduce excess body fat and permanently lose weight. It is especially important to limit the intake of empty calories. They contribute to your energy intake but have little other value. But you need some carbs, preferably they should come from fibrous vegetables and fruits. Such carbs cause limited rises in your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Consuming too much carbs can also lead to health issues. If your body produces too much insulin over time a number of things can go wrong. Becoming overweight is just one of the problems. Glucose that your body does not need will become saturated and the excess will be converted to fat.

So have do you start burning fat instead of sugar? The answer is easy, limit your daily intake of carbohydrates to the minimum amount needed and make sure that the carbs comes from fibrous vegetables and fruits, don’t consume sugary foods or beverages. Make sure that most of your calories come from fat and protein.

Paleo Fast Food

You have plenty of Paleo food to choose from but most of it requires a fair bit of preparations. Sometimes you simply don’t have enough time or you are on the road, so you need fast food. What are your options when it comes to Paleo fast food? Assuming that you are not on a very strict Paleo Diet, you have actually quite a lot of options.

You can take with you food such as canned tuna in water or olive oil. Canned fish is not as good as fresh fish but it is still an excellent source of lean protein. Canned tuna is reasonably cheap and can be stored for a very long time. It is also easy to take with you. If you don’t like tuna, you can try canned salmon instead. Try to buy BPA (Bisphenol A) free cans.

You can also bring fruit, nuts and vegetables with you, but it may not be good enough for more than one meal. Another possibility is to bring biff jerky, Paleo made if possible, with you. Hard boiled eggs and dried fruits are also perfect food to bring with you. Gas stations seldom have much to offer except for nuts and jerky. Fasting is of course an option but if your body is not used to it you may run out of energy very quickly.

If you don’t any Paleo food with you and need some food fast, then you still have some possibilities to find food at some fast food places. In some places you may be able to find a reasonably Paleo-style roasted chicken. Another possibility is to get a bacon burger and throw away the bun. But also some of the larger fast food chains have some reasonable Paleo options.

Unfortunately, MacDonald’s doesn’t really have anything to offer if you want to stick to the Paleo Diet. KFC’s chicken contains plenty of sodium, wheat, corn, soy and other ingredients that are not Paleo. Try to find a Chipotle instead, it is the best chain for Paleo food. Get salad, no burrito, and vegetables but no rice or beans. Also no dressing but you can try a sauce instead. Chipotle is not perfect but the meat is supposed to be grown without antibiotics or hormones. Wendy’s have some chicken salads that are worth testing and Taco Bell’s salad and grilled chicken is also a reasonable meal, just don’t eat the chips. Carl’s Jr has a low carb menu with burgers that are wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun.

If you are in California, try to find an In-N-Out Burger. You should try their Protein Style Burger, your favorite burger wrapped in hand-leafed lettuce instead of a bun, which is on their Not-So-Secret menu. You may also want to have a look at their Animal Style Burger.

Paleo Breakfast Ideas

Breakfast is an important meal and the Paleo Diet includes a wide variety of breakfast meals. Still, many are struggling with coming up with suitable Paleo breakfast ideas. This may be due to the fact that a standard breakfast contains a lot of carbs, for example coffee, fruit juice, buttered bread and cereals. It can be difficult to break old habits.

Obviously what you can eat for breakfast depends on what type of Paleo Diet you have adopted. Let’s assume that we are not going to stick to a strict Paleo Diet. Bacon for example is not really healthy so in some versions of the Paleo Diet bacon is banned. You can of course also replace bacon with healthier meat.

Eggs are healthy and can be eaten often. You may have heard that eggs contain plenty of cholesterol and you should not eat more than a few eggs per week. Recent studies have shown that two eggs per day is not unhealthy, provided that you still eat a reasonably balanced diet. In other words, you can eat eggs for breakfast several times a week.

Personally, I love bacon and eggs for breakfast. But I don’t want to eat the same breakfast everyday. Eggs are often included in a Paleo breakfast, they may be boiled, fried, poached or scrambled. You can also make omelets with veggies, bacon, ham or mushrooms. Egg and salmon is another popular Paleo breakfast. Often the problem with eggs are that you get fed up eating eggs almost every day.

If you want a breakfast without eggs, you can try meat and nuts. It may sound like an odd breakfast but it is a quite tasty combination. You can also add avocado and olives. You can make various chicken salads most of which you can prepare the day before. Another nice breakfast is broccoli or asparagus wrapped in bacon. You also have the possibility to make Paleo pancakes, for example sweet potato pancakes. Grilled tomatoes with or without egg and bacon is another nice breakfast.

One potential drawback with many of these breakfast suggestions is that they are time consuming to prepare, not everyone has the necessary time in the morning. Most of the breakfast suggestions can be prepared the day before, saving you a lot of time in the morning.

What if you are on the road and don’t have access to a kitchen? You can buy fruit and vegetables from a supermarket or bring nuts and dried fruit with you. You can eat beef jerky for breakfast. Most canned food is not ideal but you can try tuna in olive oil. Hard boiled eggs are easy to bring with you.

The Paleo Lifestyle

The Paleo Diet has become very popular but some people have gone one step further and try to adopt a paleo lifestyle. A good diet is important but if you want to feel healthy and energized, you generally need more than just a good diet.

The term Paleo Lifestyle is not very common but you can find plenty of material promoting a lifestyle that incorporates the Paleo Diet. One of the most popular is Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint. The goal of all these lifestyles is to reshape your body so it becomes full of energy and lets you enjoy a long and healthy life.

Eat only what cavemen ate is the idea behind the Paleo Diet. This means that for example grains, dairy and processed foods are no-nos. You want your body to start using fat as fuel rather than sugar. But most people find it very difficult to adopt a strict Paleo Diet, therefore many versions of the Paleo Diet allow for some exceptions.

Many of those who have started to feel energized and healthier after adopting the Paleo Diet start looking for other changes they can do to get even more energy and becoming more productive. Rather than going on a stricter Paleo Diet, many look for lifestyle changes to get healthier.

It is no surprise that exercise is an important part of the Paleo Lifestyle. It is well known that exercise is good for your health and cavemen had to be fit in order to catch something edible. But many Paleo coaches have their own ideas how you should exercise. Mark Sisson for example promotes frequent low intensity exercises rather than doing longer sessions of medium to heavy intensity. Overexercise will not make you healthier. But occasional short bursts of maximum effort are important, for example weight training should be done with high intensity but stick to short sessions. Exercises should also work the whole body rather than just one single group of muscles.

The Paleo lifestyle also tries to minimize stress, far from easy in the modern world. For this it is important to get adequate sleep, don’t use an alarm clock. You have one advantage over the caveman, you can have a much more comfortable and safer sleeping environment, make the most of it. Spend a lot of time relaxing, playing and socializing, don’t think about work all the time. It is also important to be out in the nature as much as possible and make sure that you get plenty of sunlight. By walking barefoot and wearing just the necessary clothes, you let nature strengthen your body.

Is the Paleo Diet Easy to Follow

The Paleo Diet has become very popular lately, a lot of people are trying it. In theory it may sound easy to eat just what cavemen ate. But a lot of people have discovered that a strict Paleo Diet is far from easy to follow.

First of all, changing is always difficult, we are creatures of habit. You need to know what you want to achieve before you start on changing anything in your life. Most people adopt the Paleo Diet because they want to become healthier. Such a goal is too vague, try to be more specific, for example losing 10 pounds or sleeping six hours per night.

A strict Paleo Diet excludes a lot of common foods and beverages. For most beginners, it is best to be less strict. If things work out well, you can make your diet stricter. Trying to force you to change too much too quickly, almost always backfires after a week or two. For example, restricting yourself to eat three non-Paleo meals per week is a reasonable challenge for most people. But you may have to either increase the number of weekly non-Paleo meals or define your Paleo Diet less strict. Potatoes and rice for example are strictly speaking not Paleo food but many Paleo dieters include at least one of them in their diet.

You often hear that it is expensive to follow the Paleo Diet. Many have discovered that their food bill increases when they adopt the Paleo Diet. Obviously, this very much depends on how much you usually spend on food. If you want grass-fed meat, when it will become expensive. Many Paleo dieters are not strict about that the meat has to have been grass-fed, this makes it cheaper and easier to buy meat. The same goes for the requirement for organic products. People on a tight budget often buy some non-organic products in order to save some money. The Paleo diet does not need to be expensive but it may require some creativity and flexibility if you want to keep your food bill low.

One practical problem with the Paleo Diet is that your non-Paleo friends may think you are awkward when it comes to dining out. The same goes for if you are invited home for dinner. Often it is best to make an exception and eat non-paleo food on special occasions. Your non-Paleo friends will certainly appreciate it. If you are going out with friends, try to persuade them to avoid the worst places for Paleo dieters, such as pizza places or sandwich bars.

As you can see, there are some practical problems following the Paleo Diet. But with a little bit of creativity and flexibility, it is possible to adopt the Paleo Diet without too much hassle.

Paleo Diet and Weight Loss

The Paleo Diet has really become popular the last couple of years, in 2013 it became the most googled diet on the Internet. How efficient the Paleo Diet is for losing weight has become a very popular topic. Many nutrition experts and gurus are not impressed by the Paleo Diet while its supporters say it is the easiest way of getting rid of fat.

There are several versions of the Paleo Diet but they can all be summarized as low carbs diets. Weight loss is generally all about calories but interestingly, the Paleo Diet does not count calories. Many versions of the Paleo Diet are also high in fat which often is criticized by many non-Paleo diet gurus.

The rising popularity of the Paleo Diet has also made it popular to criticize the diet. But so far not many scientific studies about the efficiency of the Paleo Diet has been done. This means that much of the discussion is mostly based on theoretical or anecdotal evidence.

That many nutritionists are suspicious of the Paleo Diet was confirmed in the 2013 US News & World Report, which examined 28 diets and placed the Paleo Diet last, together with the Duke Diet. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) did not find any proof that the Paleo Diet improves health, and continued that its demand that you exclude food groups essential to health such as dairy, grains and legumes could leave people seriously deficient in essential vitamins and calcium.

It is also easy to find a lot of people, including a number of celebrities, who say that thanks to the Paleo Diet they have lost weight and have much more energy than previously.

Strictly speaking, in order to lose weight, you have to consume less calories than you burn. It does not really matter in what form you get the calories. Since the Paleo Diet typically does not count calories, there is no way to tell if you will gain or lose weight. But one advantage with the Paleo Diet is that most calories come from fat and protein, rather than carbs. This balances out insulin levels and makes you less hungry between meals because protein sustains you longer than carbohydrate. All this makes it easier to cut down the intake of calories. In dome cases, this has led to significant weight loss in the first few weeks, due to the low quantities of carbs consumed and water expelled from your body.

But if you want to lose weight, it is still best to combine a relatively strict diet with exercise. It is also important to eat lean meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts. Too much red meat and unhealthy fats will not make it easy to lose weight.

Paleo Diet Variations

The Paleo Diet is not strictly defined so there are a number of variations of the diet. It is easiest to describe the variations of the Paleo Diets by the people who have created or promoted them.

One of the most popular variations is the one Loren Cordain described in his book The Paleo Diet (the latest version of his book is named The Paleo Diet Revised). Cordain has written a number of books about the Paleo diet, including cookbooks with recipes. He recommends a relatively strict Paleo diet. The diet is based on lean meats, fish & seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The meat should be “grass-produced” and trimmed of visible fat. The list of what not to eat contains dairy products, potatoes, processed foods, salt and cereal grains. But you are allowed to consume three non-paleo meals per week, allowing you for example to drink small amounts of alcohol. You can read more about Dr. Cordain’s recommendations here.

Robb Wolf is another author of a popular Paleo Diet book, The Paleo Solution. He is a former student of Loren Cordain and recommends much the same kind of diet as he. But there are a couple of differences. Wolf is less worried about red meat than most others, as long as the meat comes from pasture raised animals, it is not a problem, regardless of the saturated fat. Robb Wolf does not recommend alcohol but has recognized that many people like to drink alcohol once in a while so he has created his own version of the Margarita drink, the NorCal Margarita. Beer should not be drunk, wine is a better choice.

Mark Sisson is a well known name in the world of Paleo Diets. He has written several books, the best known is “The Primal BluePrint.” It is not just about diet, it covers most aspects of an active and healthy lifestyle. His diet suggestions are similar to those of mainstream paleo diets. One interesting point is that he recommends supplementing your diet with pure fish oil capsules, in order to get enough omega-3 fatty acids. The main natural source, cold water fish, is often contaminated with mercury and pesticide residues. He is also promoting meat, and the fat it contains, which can make your metabolism animal fat-based. If you want to lose weight, you should cut down on carbs and eat more fat, in case of meat.

Ray Audette’s NeanderThin was one of the first successful paleo diet books. It is out of print but available as a Kindle book. The author summarized his advice with: “Never eat anything that you cannot get naked, armed with only a sharp stick.” His advice was simple, no processed food. If you adopt such a diet, a high-calorie, high-fat diet can actually make you leaner. Over the years, a lot of diet experts, most of them “non-paleo”, have criticized his diet which does not limit fat consumption. Of course, he is not the only one who has been criticized, almost all diets which don’t put any limits on fat have come under fire.

Calories, Proteins, Carbs and Fats Explained

Calorie is a unit of energy. Strictly speaking, a calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 litre of water by 1 degree Celsius. In nutrition, calories refer to energy consumption through eating and drinking.

Humans need calories (energy) to survive, we acquire this energy from food and drink. Furthermore, if you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. On the other hand, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Your body is always burning some minimum amount of calories to support the function of vital organs. The more physically active you are, the more calories you are burning.

The number of calories food contain tells us how much potential energy it has. Food is made up of three main components, protein, carbohydrate (carbs) and fat. We need all three of them but in what proportion is often hotly debated. 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories, 1 gram of carbs also contains 4 calories while 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories.

Protein is used for growth and repair of the body. Muscles need protein in order to grow, which is why bodybuilders often use protein supplements. High protein diets are used as weight loss diets, it looks like protein reduces appetite. A common recommendation is that 20-35% of calories should come from protein. But there are no dangers associated with higher intakes of protein. Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are examples of food that contains a lot of protein.

Carbs play a critical role in the proper functioning of the human body. A deficiency of carbohydrates can lead to a number of serious problems. In the western world carbs deficiency is rare, a much bigger problem is excessive consumption of carbohydrates, like sugar. If you eat more carbs than you burn, the excess will be stored as body fat. Too much sugar can also cause diabetes. The standard recommendation is that about half of your calories should come from carbs. But there are good and bad carbs, try to cut down on food and drinks containing a lot of sugar. Whole grain foods are a much healthier source of carbs.

Also fats can be divided into good fat and bad fat. Unsaturated fat, found in for example oily fish, nuts and olive oil, is good fat. Saturated fat is less healthy and should be avoided as much as possible. As a rule of thumb, saturated fat is generally solid at room temperature while unsaturated fat is liquid. Trans fat is a modified sort of saturated fat and should be avoided. Typically, 20-35% of calories should come from fat.

Needless to say, there is almost as many diet experts and gurus as there are opinions about good and bad diets. The Paleo diet does not count calories but it is high in protein, often low in carbs and high in fat.