24 Paleo facts you need to know

By Jordanna Levin |

Photo by: Kesu01/ Thinkstock

We recently posted a Bluffer’s Guide to Paleo and you guys were certainly intrigued.

Today, we take a look at Chris Kresser’s new book Your Personal Paleo Diet (or Your Personal Paleo Code if you’re in the US). Chris is a a practitioner of integrative medicine who has gained a reputation as an expert in the Paleo world. Sarah has been catching up with Chris for several years.

Your Personal Paleo Diet is about taking a long term approach to the Paleo diet and personalising it to suit the individual. He believes this is the key to getting the most out of the diet.

We’ve extracted some perky Paleo facts straight from Chris’s book to share with you.

A quick recap.

Paleo encompasses a very sensible, unprocessed, whole foods approach to eating. It focuses on the food humans are biologically adapted to and those we’re evolving to eat (e.g dairy), the physical energy we’re biologically designed to exert, the lifespan and health of our ancestors and the shift away from toxic grains.

Paleo is about eating whole foods.

  • Eat from nose to tail: When we consume all parts of the animal, we avoid potential nutritional imbalances. Intake of lean meats should be balanced with liberal amounts of organ meat, bone (broths) and skin.
  • Just one egg contains 13 essentials nutrients – all in the yolk. Now ask yourself: why you would bother with an egg white omelette?
  • Saturated fats play important roles in bone health, support healthy immune function and have beneficial impacts on cardiovascular function.

It’s not about eating ridiculous amounts of meat.

Many believe that the Paleo diet is extremely meat heavy. This isn’t the case. Instead, Paleo advocates consuming adequate amounts of great quality, pasture-fed and organic meats – and with good reason.

  • Meat is beneficial to our brain, which consumes 20 per cent of our total energy.
  • Paleo is about eating quality, pasture-fed meats only. It’s higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, glutathione, riboflavin, thiamine, calcium, magnesium and selenium than its grain-fed counterpart.
  • Pasture-fed beef falls within evolutionary norms for the fatty acid content of animals that humans have eaten throughout history. 
  • Protein from animal products like dairy, egg, fish and beef is superior to plant proteins.

The advent of agriculture brought a significant decline in our health.

Once grains became part of our regular diet, the average height of humans decreased by almost 13cm.

  • Our average life expectancy decreased by about seven years.
  • Grains are lower in most vitamins and minerals than the meat, wild fruits and vegetables consumed by our ancestors, and they’re inferior forms of protein.
  • Traditional hunter-gatherer cultures ate as many as 126 different varieties of plants. Today, 80 per cent of the world lives on four staple plants: wheat, rice, corn and potatoes.
  • Not all fibre is created equal. While soluble fibres in fruit and vegetables protect against disease, insoluble fibre in whole-grains may increase mortality.

What’s the deal with dairy?

We follow a mostly Paleo diet at I Quit Sugar, but we still choose to eat dairy, as do many Paleo followers. Here’s why:

  • Evolution didn’t stop in Paleolithic times, and recent genetic changes have influenced our ability to tolerate dairy.
  • The enzyme lactase, which digests lactose in milk, did not start spreading throughout the adult population until about 8000 years ago. Now, a third of the world’s population produces lactase into adulthood, and that figure approaches 100 per cent in some parts of Northern Europe.
  • In the majority of studies, those who ate high fat dairy foods had the lowest risk of obesity and metabolic diseases.
  • Dairy is also a good source of fat-soluble vitamins like retinol and vitamin K2, which are difficult to obtain elsewhere in the diet.

Why would we eat like our ancestors? Didn’t they die young?

  • Good point! But when you take into account high rates of infant mortality, deaths due to trauma and violence and the severe lack of medical care, hunter-gatherers have lifespans similar to ours.
  • They didn’t suffer from obesity; today, 65 per cent of adults are overweight, and 34 per cent meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome.
  • Studies of contemporary hunter-gatherers suggest they’re largely free of chronic inflammatory diseases and modern illnesses.
  • Studies show hunter-gatherers were superior in every measure of health and fitness, including blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, body mass index, waist-to-height ratio, oxygen consumption, vision and bone density. Why wouldn’t we follow their lead?

Paleo cares about your gut:

  • Approximately 70 per cent to 80 per cent of the body’s immune cells are in the gut.
  • A leaky gut causes an immune reaction that affects not only the gut, but also every other organ system and tissue in the body.

Exercise differently:

Paleo places an emphasis on physical activity but approaches it differently to many other diets.

  • Too much exercise can be harmful. You can read Sarah’s take on this here. Overtraining has been associated with oxidative damage, inflammation and cognitive decline, as well as a decreased immune function, fat metabolism and cardiovascular health.
  • Exercise should fall naturally into your day: contemporary hunter-gatherers walked an average of 10,000 steps per day. The typical American walks only 5,900 to 6,900 steps per day. Sarah has also written about this.
  • Studies of middle-aged marathon runners have found that they’re three times more likely to have heart damage than non-runners.

If you have any questions that you would like Sarah to ask Chris regarding the Paleo diet, post your questions in the comments below. You can also tune into her podcast with Chris or check out his book Your Personal Paleo Diet

Personal Paleo

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