For some of us, this is old news. But it’s always nice to be reminded, and to think deeply about why we live the way we do. On the other hand, a relatively large quantity of diet explorers have been coming by recently (hello!), and I want to share with them a smattering of delicious reasons for giving it a try. Feel free to add on more (or dispute them) in the comments section. Also, you should perhaps consult my post on perfectionism and expectations in the paleo world. In my opinion, paleo rocks, and nutrition is infinitely important for our well-being, but we should approach all things in life with appropriate expectations. For information on the diet, check out my “paleo diet” page. Also, the “links” page is hugely important, as there are loads of good guides and scientific blogs out there that you absolutely must check out if you are interested. I can help you pick out the resources that are best for you.
Finally, I want to be clear with semantics. “Diet” here means: way you eat. Like Richard Nikoley put so well last week in his Raw Vegan Radio debate, “”Paleo” is not really a diet. Rather, it is a framework within which any individual determines their own lifelong, sustainable regime.” Right. Eat stuff that seems like a good idea.
A “why paleo” list, in no particular order:
1) Eating a paleo diet just. makes. sense. Look at all of the ailments and diseases humanity faces. Overweight, diabetes, cancer, alzheimers, arthritis, irritable bowel, mental illness, heart disease…hell, even myopia. Why do no other species on the planet exhibit the same problems? Contemporary society has this totally misguided idea that disease is inevitable, that humans today “live longer than they used to” (false), and therefore that we need to use medicine and the pharmaceutical industry to fix all of these inherent, inevitable problems. Wrong. Why do things go wrong with us in the first place? Why do we develop cancers? Why do children have diabetes? Why does anyone?
We are made out of the food we eat. Literally. So if we put food in our bodies that is unnatural or that they don’t know how to handle, they are going to work way out of whack. A good analogy is this: say you want to build a house. Are you going to use redwoods, or are you going to use toothpicks? Worse, still, are you going to use something right out of a factory, that hasn’t been properly tested, that you don’t know is good for you or not, such as… I don’t know… tar? No. You want to use the best stuff out there. A house made out of inappropriate materials would never stand. Ever. So why do the same to our bodies?
2) Paleo cures ailments. Look at my mother, for example. Or me. Or these thousands at Marks Daily Apple. The science is really quite solid on this one. If you have a disease of civilization, there is a very good chance you can fix it with diet. More importantly, however, people are staring to share their awesome stories of recovery, health, and vivacity.
3) Preventative medicine is better than treatment. For real. It’s cheaper, it’s better for you, and it’s more natural. A doctor can give you statins for your heart all you want, but did you know statins increase the risk of other degenerative diseases and organ failure? A heart doctor might not necessarily know that either. He specializes in one thing only. How is he supposed to know that his medicines mess with your brain? Drugs have effects. They might “fix” one part of your body, but they’ll surely mess with another. Plus they are expensive. Taking care of our bodies now helps us avoid having to fix them in the future.
4) Sugar is toxic. More than a teaspoon of sugar in the blood is toxic (this is why we have insulin, and why our bodies are so good at storing sugar as fat.) Know how much sugar is in a can of soda? Right. Plus, Cancer feeds off of sugar. More and more people are looking at paleo-type diets to cure cancer, and more and more of them are having success.
5) A paleo diet stablizes blood sugar levels and gives you more energy. Do you feel tired in the afternoons? After eating? Do you ever feel woozy after standing up too fast? You might think these are all perfectly natural phenomenon, but they’re not. What’s happening to you is that once you eat carbohydrates, your blood sugar spikes, and in order to clear these toxins out of your system your body releases insulin. Insulin gets the sugar out of your blood and into your fat cells, and then your blood sugar plummets. You feel tired, cranky, or dizzy, and sometimes ravenously hungry. However, if you eat a diet low in carbohydrate, your blood sugar will not spike, so it will not plummet, either. You will happily exist on an even keel, and you will have loads and loads more energy. Promise.
6) Wheat is bad for you. Period. It steals important nutrients from our intestines and significantly decreases our nutrient supply. Ever wonder why Americans eat the most dairy but have the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world? Worst of all, perhaps, wheat creates gut permeability. Once you have a permeable gut, all sorts of toxins and bacteria can get into your bloodstream. From there, they can give you systemic infections. They can also provoke your immune system into hyperdrive, and induce autoimmunity.
6.5) Wheat and rice are BORING. Once you get over them, you will never miss them. They have no flavor. Bread feels like dust in my mouth these days. So why do we still eat them? Because they increase opiate sensitivity in the brain. Grains = drugs.
7) A paleo diet is the best candidate for a “cure” for leaky gut, the common cause of autoimmune disease. This is because it eschews foods that have recently been introduced to the human diet and cause all sorts of havoc in our digestive tracks (as well as other places). These are: wheat products, dairy, and legumes. Whole, raw, unprocessed dairy may be okay to eat. The jury is still on this one. In any case, eschew it if you’re autoimmune. Use your best judgment otherwise. The diseases a leaky gut can cause include but are not limited to: Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alopecia Areata, Rosacea, Celiac, Grave’s, Crohn’s…..
8) Paleo diets are the most fun diets out there. You get to eat fat, and– fuck! As much of it as you want. And protein. Every animal! Some carbs if you want. And big, fulfilling meals. Check out this phenomenal cookbook and Melissa McEwen’s blog to see what I mean.
9) Paleo diets are uniquely satiating. Why? Because eating fat is uniquely satiating, and there’s loads of it on this diet. Because protein is the most important macronutrient for satiation, and it’s also big on this diet. Because fructose induces hunger and high insulin levels induce hunger and blood sugar swings induce hunger, and they are all limited on this diet. If you are a busy human being, this will keep you going without food. If you struggle with cravings, this will help. Enormously. That’s the theme of 50 percent of the posts on this blog.
10) Most people spontaneously lose weight on paleo diets. Eliminating inflammatory foods and sugars, and getting back to normal metabolic processes just does it for people. Our bodies stop panicking and overproducing cortisol (the stress hormone) and insulin and inflammatory agents, and then get a chance to reset.
11) People lean out and look hot on a paleo diet, especially if they’re trying. Eat paleo, throw some heavy lifting in there, and sprint once in a while, and you’ll look like Mark Sisson in no time. I’m not kidding. Look at all of the “leaders” of the movement. They’re all scientists, but they’re ripped, and they’re radiant, and they’re healthy. Why follow doctor Oz when he’s a skinny fuck with an unhealthy colon? Or your doctor, who munches on doughnuts between office visits? Or Gwenyth Paltrow, who looks great, eats a vegetarian diet, and has osteoporosis? That’s a bit beside the point. What I’m saying here is: if you want to be ripped, this is the way to do it. Even if you’re 60. Gods, I should post pictures of my mom.
12) Joint pain is almost always reduced on a paleo diet. Check out that post I linked to earlier about my mother. Inflammatory foods such as vegetable oils and grains irritate our joints. For example, my knees act up if I’m not being careful with limiting my omega 6 consumption. Otherwise, I am absolutely pain free.
13) Stress and anxiety can decrease on a paleo diet. I’m not saying that paleo will cure the ailments of your life. What I am saying, however, is that any stress that exists in your system from the food you’re putting in it will go away. Your cortisol levels will probably fall. It’s nice.
14) You get to be proud and indignant on a paleo diet. Why should I buy a box of “heart healthy” food out of a box, fortified with fiber and what-have-you-other supposed health benefits? Why promote awful industries? Why participate in waste? Eat whole, local, organic foods, and revel in the good you’re doing for yourself and for your local economy.
15) You get to extend your “mobile years.” Recent studies have shown that while humans are living longer, we are also mobile for fewer years of our lives. Due to excessive joint pain and obesity an increasingly large amount of time spent in wheelchairs and nursing homes is the American norm. This is insane.
16) A paleo diet significantly decreases the risk of dementia. I watched my grandmother spiral into insanity. If that’s not reason to eschew grains, sugars, and other inflammatory agents, I don’t know what is.
17) You get to think about ancestral humans in other realms of your life. You realize that you should sleep more. That shoes aren’t always the answer, and a lot of our pain might come from the unnatural stride they give us. That a lot of modern “necessities” are really just ways we are trying to recover from the damage we’ve done. I use little soap, for example. I wash my hair with natural things. I brush my teeth only for vanity’s sake, not because I need to. And that’s not weird, it’s just fine. I am just as clean and healthy as I always was, if not, cross my heart, more so. I avoid fluorescent lights, and now I sleep better. I know that “playing” is healthy for me. I know that stress is bad. Etc.
18) Paleo makes phenomenally healthy babies. Regardless of your view on nutrition, you cannot argue against the fact that a paleo diet is the most nutritionally dense one out there. Check out this comparison of nutrient density of fruits to beef liver. Moreover, did you hear about the ruckus of the French parents who raised a vegan baby and killed it with vitamin deficiencies? Yikes. If you’re interested, check out Chris Kresser’s work. He recently has put together a great online course on “how to make and raise a healthy baby.” A healthy pregnancy, healthy nursing, healthy early nutrition… it’s all super important for the baby for the rest of it’s life.
19) Stabilized hormone levels from a paleo diet mitigate the symptoms of PMS. It’s not normal to be fucked up by your periods.
20) Paleo diets prevent heart disease. Think the cholesterol theory of heart disease is right? Think again. Even conventional doctors are coming around on this one.
21) You get to eat MORE on a paleo diet if you want. In one study, people ate equal caloric amounts (only 12oo calories!) on high carb versus high fat diets, and those who ate mostly fat lost weight, those who ate equal amounts lost a little bit, and those who ate mostly carbs actually gained weight. I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon in my own life. I used to eat a tiny cup of quinoa and some cereal and six grapes for breakfast, then maybe a sweet potato for lunch…. now it’s omelets and bowls full of pork soup and fish filets galore, with an even fitter, more muscled, happier body.
(Edit: Of course there’s lots of contrary evidence out there on this point. Check out this great comprehensive post over at Carb Sane. Then eat and see.)
22) It’s easy.