Food Lifestyle

Misconceptions about Paleo

December 16, 2015
misconceptions about paleo

My goal is to eat foods that maximize my health and make me feel my absolute best. An “Anna” diet if you will. After lots of trial and error, I’ve found some great benefits from following a paleo inspired diet. I feel great, my autoimmune symptoms are under control and I stay at my fighting weight with very little effort.

I used to think paleo was a fad diet of deprivation found mostly in cross fit gym. I pictured buff guys drinking protein shakes and eating loads of sad, dry chicken breasts. Boy, was I misinformed!

Here are some common myths about Paleo and the truths I’ve learned along the way:

Myth: Paleo is the same thing as a low carb diet.

Totally not true! Remember, fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates and Paleo encourages a very high intake of vegetables and moderate intake of fruit.

I’ve heard Stacy, and Sarah on The Paleo View recommend at least 100 grams of carbohydrates a day and speak against low carb diets for women.

Myth: Paleo isn’t good for the world because of the environmental impact of eating meat.

Yes, the amount of meat we eat is problematic and contributes to climate change. However, the vast majority of the problem comes from conventionally raised animals and the distorted portion sizes in which the average American eats meat.

A paleo approach to eating meat emphasizes eating high-quality meat (organic, grass-fed red meat or pasture raised poultry, wild fish) and in correct (small) proportions.

It also advocates eating the whole animal and using less desirable cuts of meat like nutrient-rich organ meat. This approach is far more sustainable for the world and better for your body as well.

The new spin-off from paleo is Pegan, which advocates even less meat and more vegetable intake than a traditional paleo lifestyle. Some might even argue this is just a “regular” Paleo diet done right. Whatever you want to call it, I love eating this way!

Myth: Paleo is so restrictive you can’t get all the nutrients you need.

Oh my gosh, this is just SO wrong. Let’s start with meat. High-quality meat and fish are incredibly good for you. I remember when I was a dairy-free vegetarian I felt cold and anxious all the time. Little did I know that I was missing key nutrients like vitamin A, D, DHEA, and B12.

Paleo also advocates eating lots and lots of vegetables, especially nutrient powerhouses like leafy greens and crucifers: broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, kale & Brussels sprouts.

A balanced paleo meal– 4 oz. Wild salmon cooked in ghee, ½ an avocado, ½ cup roasted butternut squash and 1 cup steamed broccoli– is incredibly nutrient dense.

This (400 calorie meal) packs almost 25 grams of protein, 14.5 grams of fiber and is a great source of vitamin C, B12, E, Calcium (to name a few!).

A lot of members of the paleo community think “Paleo” could be renamed as “the nutrient density diet” because it’s all about maximizing nutrient intake!

paleo foods image

Myth: Meat is the main food group.

Just wrong. In a correctly balanced Paleo diet vegetable intake exceeds meat intake.

Myth: Paleo is inflammatory whereas vegetarian diets are anti-inflammatory.

Vegetables are anti-inflammatory. Period. So a vegetarian diet high in vegetables AND a paleo diet high in vegetables can be anti-inflammatory.

If you’re eating high-quality meat in small proportions along side your veggies, you don’t need to be as concerned about inflammation. Chicken might be the exception because it’s higher in omega-6 fatty acids. Trust me when I say occasional 3 oz. servings of grass-fed beef are good for you! If you’re still on the fence, wild seafood is the way to go.

People don’t always consider the inflammatory impact of non-animal foods. Research suggests that foods like grains and dairy can be inflammatory for people, especially those with autoimmune conditions. The autoimmune Paleo approach was developed to treat autoimmune conditions. Trying this diet (and learning to like organ meat) is one of my new years resolutions.

Myth: Paleo is a fad diet.

Paleo, or eating nutrient-dense, high-quality vegetables, meat, healthy fats and some fruit, is truly a lifestyle that maximizes health. The word “diet” implies that it’s a short-term commitment, usually with weight loss as the goal. However, a Paleo approach to eating promotes long-term health.

Many people just follow the parts of the Paleo diet that help them. For example, some people include some grains or eat non-gluten free treats on special occasions. Figure out which foods help you feel your best, as there’s no “one size fits all” way to eat.

Interested in learning more about a paleo lifetsyle? Check out these resources below:

The Paleo View Podcast

The Paleo Mom

Paleo Parents

Robb Wolf

Grass-Fed Girl 

Nom Nom Paleo

Autoimmune Paleo

Anna Walker signature image

Join the conversation:

What do you think about the paleo movement? Do you follow a special diet designed just for you?

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  • Reply Joanne December 16, 2015 at 5:14 am

    Good to know ! Since I’m in Argentina for the winter, grass fed beef is no problem! And ‘the other white meat’: goat is readily available …but the portions will be a challenge. PS. Do you know what argentines cook for vegetarians? Chicken.

    • Reply Anna December 16, 2015 at 8:15 am

      How fun–Argentina is an amazing place! A “correct” portion of meat is about 3 oz which is about the size of the back of your fist or a deck of cards. That way you can eye ball it :)

  • Reply S. December 16, 2015 at 11:53 am

    My intuition tells me I should be eating this way, but my will power is terrible. Any suggestions on how to ease into this type of eating style? Also, can beans be part of the paleo system? seeds and nuts?

    • Reply Anna December 16, 2015 at 11:57 am

      I’d say make a paleo oriented goal, instead of trying to adopt the diet completely at first. This could be committing to getting at least 5 servings of vegetables a day OR removing a non paleo food like gluten. Ask yourself what about the paleo diet makes you “think you should be eating that way” and work on making that change (more veggies? Less grains? High quality meat?). Hope that helps! :)

  • Reply Cayanne Marcus December 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Very interesting to hear your perspective on Paleo style eating. I know there’s a bunch of discussion out there and I found yours to be respectful and educational :)
    Cayanne Marcus recently posted…Most Popular Posts of 2015: Self love segments, wellness, & fitness moments you may have missedMy Profile

    • Reply Anna December 16, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Thanks, Cayanne! I appreciate you taking the time to read :)
      Ps. I really enjoyed checking out your blog as well. What an inspiring story!

  • Reply Ashley @ A Lady Goes West December 16, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Hi Anna! Once again, another fabulous and well-thought out article by you about nutrition and diet. I’ve never followed the Paleo diet and have always been a little bit concerned about the fact that grains are not included. Do you have any thoughts on that? I mean, quinoa? Brown rice? Those seem very beneficial! But overall, everything you say about Paleo sounds great to me!
    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West recently posted…Fun facts about life lately and foodMy Profile

    • Reply Anna December 16, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      Thanks, Ashley! Assuming you don’t have an autoimmune condition, unexplained symptoms, signs of high inflammation or a problem with gluten (other grains can be problematic as well), whole grains in moderation might be totally fine and beneficial for you!

      With all the hype about paleo and following the “rules” it’s easy to forget the entire point is figuring out
      how YOUR body responds to particular foods. A lot of paleo people who follow the diet for health reasons DO include some grains if they don’t react to them. Blindly following a set of guidelines is something I’d never recommend!

      To figure out if grains are helpful for you, try NOT eating them for a week. Do you feel more energized? Sleep better? Better digestion? If yes, maybe they’re not foods that maximize your health and you’ll want to limit or eliminate. If you don’t notice a difference, keep em!

      One side note:Blood sugar can be an issue with carbohydrate consumption in general so make sure to pair grains with fat and/or protein to keep blood sugar levels stable. This goes for paleo approved carbs like fruit as well :)

      I’m planning to go into this in more detail at a later date but research does suggest that carbohydrate rich diets are a cause of obesity. If you’re looking for a good book “why we get fat” by Gary Taubes is very interesting!

      Hope that’s helpful!

  • Reply GiGi Eats December 17, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Lets continue to BUST THESE MYTHS about paleo, because it’s actually an INSANELY HEALTHY diet! :)
    Grass-Fed/Finished RED MEAT for the win!!

    • Reply Anna December 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Love it! :)

  • Reply Krista Williams December 20, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Thanks for this, Anna! I actually didn’t know a lot of these things and had the assumption of many myths! I really liked the information about the meat focus people believe Paleo has.

    Great post!

    Happy holidays
    xx
    Krista

    • Reply Anna December 20, 2015 at 8:00 pm

      So happy to help, Krista! Thanks for reading :)

  • Reply Kelly @ The Fit Skool January 6, 2016 at 10:39 am

    I did Paleo for a couple weeks, I loved the fact that it made me add in more veggies to my diet. I had to get creative in the kitchen for sure but it helped my nutrition a ton.

    I still try to follow a similar diet however I do love oats, brown rice and other grains.. as well as yogurt and occasional ice cream!

    Great article!
    Kelly @ The Fit Skool recently posted…WIAW: Pregnancy EatsMy Profile

    • Reply Anna January 6, 2016 at 10:50 am

      Good for you, Kelly! I think it’s all about modifying for YOUR body and life

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