Sarah’s take on Paleo

By Shayl Prisk |

It’s a bit of a trend to lump I Quit Sugar in with Paleo. While it might make for a catchy headline, there’s been some hysterical misinformation running too. Quitting sugar and going Paleo definitely aren’t one and the same, although there is some common ground. Here’s Sarah to clear up the confusion.

I’m not into doing “diets” or being strict and draconian with eating, or getting caught up in fads. So I’ll say upfront: I’m not Paleo and IQS is not Paleo.

I don’t think there is one way of eating for everyone. My mantra is to encourage everyone to experiment… gently… and to be guided by your own body. Not by a theorem. Mostly what I try to do with the IQS books and 8-Week Program is to help people get their appetite and energy back to a point where they’re actually able to listen to what their bodies are telling them, without addictive interference and cravings.

But I digress… the Paleo palaver…

What is the Paleo diet?

Also called the caveman diet, it’s about eating in a manner similar to how our ancestors did before the agricultural revolution. So goes the spiel.

This equates to eating unprocessed meat, saturated fats (from animals, avocados etc.), non-starchy vegetables, eggs and a little low-sugar fruit.

It also means eliminating any food that arrived on the scene since farming and processing began, about 10,000 years back, including grains, sugars, dairy, vegetable oils, Dunkin’ Donuts and the like.

But Paleo Peeps (PPs) vary their take on the details. Some reckon nuts are OK. Some are cool with some grains. Some won’t touch any carbs at all.


So why eat Paleo today?

Because, say PPs, we evolved to eat this way – and metabolise this way – over millions of years. Grains and other “processed foods” require radically different metabolic and digestive processes. Our bodies simply haven’t adjusted to these (evolution is a damn slow process) and so we struggle with the “new” foods at every mouthful.

Our genes are 95 per cent the same as they were 10,000 years ago. We haven’t changed genetically in this time, but our diets sure have.

Some correlations are often made that paint an interesting picture, like the fact that:

As our intake of grains and processed foods has increased, so has the incidence of diseases such as cancer and heart disease… at the same rate.

I find this intriguing, and I pay this notion some attention, but….

Correlation isn’t causation. Also, the science relating to what exactly our relatives ate 10,000 years ago is, well, a little sketchy at best and studies suggest their diet varied depending on climate etc. I don’t like to pivot from the “we’re all caveman at our core” premise for this reason, and prefer to look at the actual way of eating itself as it fits with life today. So….

The no-grains thing.

Personally, I quit gluten a while back for auto-immune reasons. As a general vibe across my menu plans and recipes, I keep gluten-based grains to a minimum. Why?

  1. I’m all about reducing the toxic load and maximising nutrition. This is my focus. Gluten-based foods are never the most nutrient-dense option in a food lineup. So they don’t feature too often on my menus. Ditto grain-based foods in general.
  2. I’m all about reducing processed foods where possible. A lot of processed foods are brimful of gluten, so my eating approach reduces gluten by default.

However, our menu plans and recipes do incorporate some bread and pasta, densely nutritious grains like quinoa and amaranth and buckwheat, and plenty of starchy veggies like sweet potato and pumpkin, as well as some potato. Our recipes are low-carb and very low-toxin, but I ensure they comply with standard dietary guidelines around the world.

The dairy doozie.

Personally, I eat dairy – happily. I eat full-fat dairy only, however, and feature full-fat dairy only in my recipes. You might be interested to know, lots of people who have what they think are dairy issues find switching to full-fat is better on their guts. This is because when manufacturers remove the fat, they remove a lot of the lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the problematic lactose. Dairy features in our recipes and menu plans, but always with non-dairy options for those with allergies.

What about legumes?

Apparently these have been introduced since caveman days, but is this a reason to not eat them? There’s still some conflicting evidence on how much damage they might be doing to us, so I prefer to err on the side of moderate caution.

So, I eat legumes occasionally. Not because I’m following a rule, but because too many of the little buggers do muck with my guts. Why so? They contain phytic acid which is a poison that’s said to leach vital minerals from our bodies.

Keeping with my “reducing toxic load” and “maximising nutrition” mantras, our recipes don’t go OTT on legumes and we encourage people to prepare them properly to reduce phytic acid content.

Also, I try to sprout them to break down the enzymes. This makes a difference.

Root veggies:

Some PPs believe no starchy veggies are “safe.” I disagree. Root veggies are the bomb. Enough said.

What about all that meat?

It’s a bit of a misconception that Paleo is meat-based. I actually support most of what PPs preach when it comes to meat.

  • I invest in the best meat…and eat less of it. I buy locally-reared meat and eggs from the markets. If I couldn’t, I’d find a butcher or supplier who does or I’d get it delivered. I know not everyone is flush with cash for buying organic meat, which can be expensive. If you’re not flush, maybe buy less-but-better meat? If you are flush, then I think there’s a responsibility to increase the demand for these more ethical foods… just saying.
  • I actually eat more vegetables than the average vegetarian. So do most PPs. We have this in common. My eating is now very much based around large amounts of veggies (especially green ones). I’ll consume about six to eight cups a day and include them in breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • I use meat as an addition, often for flavour, and not in huge quantities. I’ll throw into a bowl of vegetables a rasher or two of bacon (cooked and crumbled), a small handful of cooked chicken, a small tin of tuna or some grilled sardines, something like that. If I go out I’ll eat a meat-based dinner (for example a steak) once a week or so, and I’m careful to choose places who commit to good quality meat. If say, I make up a slow-cooked stew (with vegetables), I’ll include 500 grams of meat, and I’ll eat this over about four to five servings.

And the fat?

Read my take on our whole fat argument here. It’s similar to most PPs take on fat. I’ve looked into it deeply and the science seems to confirm that saturated fat is not only harmless, but healthy. Here’s more on my take on fats.

I pretty much follow the below.


Other Paleo bits:

  • Paleo isn’t about grazing; it’s three to four proper meals a day. I agree with this approach.
  • It includes moderate amounts of fruit. So does the IQS approach.
  • A big part of the Paleo approach is to sleep as our ancestors did: off to bed early, getting at least 8 to 9 hrs of sleep a night. Smart. Sensible. The science backs it.
  • Some studies show the Paleo diet can heal (and prevent) a number of degenerative diseases, especially autoimmune diseases. Totally worth bearing in mind. 
  • The Paleo approach also has an ethical and environmental focus, mostly. This is another huge priority for me.

Paleo eating, boiled down to basics, simply cuts out processed foods. If you follow the approach you automatically eat a more clean, ethical and environmentally sound diet.

And lastly…. Is the IQS 8-Week Program Paleo?

Nope. But PPs find it Paleo-inclusive. We use dairy and gluten-containing grains here and there, but recipes are easily adaptable.

Of course we missed one thing:

The Paleo stance on sugar: PPs don’t touch standard sugar or HFCS. Great. Same page. However, most PPs advocate honey and maple syrup simply because they were eaten in caveman days and are unprocessed. They’re deemed “natural”. This is where we deviate.
Natural or “caveman-approved” doesn’t necessarily mean good for us today. The fact is, honey and maple syrup were very rare to find and access 10,000 years ago and so we “naturally” didn’t eat a lot of it. Today, it’s easily accessed and since it has the same fructose make-up (or thereabouts) as sugar, this means it’s just as addictive and binge-able. And so it has the same effect on our bodies as processed sugar.
As I often say, sometimes we have to abort dogma and get sensible.

Wow, that’s a lot of info. Is there anything else you wanted to know? Ask us in the comments below!

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