My friend Leigh made a comment about my book, “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link” on Facebook yesterday that made me want to do a post on this topic. Thanks for the feedback, Leigh!
Here’s something that a lot of people don’t fully understand – there are many, MANY different Paleo diets. Sure, there’s “The Paleo Diet” book by Loren Cordain and there are plenty of “Paleo” authors, like my friend Robb Wolf. But “Paleo” can be looked at in a VERY broad way and it can include a HUGE variety of approaches. Something I worked very hard to do in my book is show the history of Paleo or “hunter-gather” diets and show how the different authors and “classic” books on the topic fit together and influence the variations you’re likely to see.
Authors and nutritional theorists have been advocating and studying hunter-gatherer or “Paleo” diets for OVER 100 YEARS! There’s a HUGE body of knowledge on this topic – if you know where to look…
The bottom line in Figure 1 – and what I talk about throughout my book – is that oval superimposed over the columns. Paleo proper is there in the oval and to each side there are “outlier diets” that are very similar to Paleo but deviate from the “straight” Paleo diet you’d think of when talking about Paleo. I believe this is why some people do really well on a VERY low carb Paleo diet that even excludes fruit on one end and – on the other end of the spectrum – there are some vegetarian athletes who thrive.
It’s about principles that are found in ALL healthy diets – principles I believe Paleo embodies to a LARGE degree. These “core” or “backbone” Paleo principles are then combined with some number of changes and substitutions that make up each individual diet. For one person it might be very low carb. For others – like myself – it might be higher fiber and more fruit. For YOU it might be something else entirely – but ALWAYS within that oval and with the Paleo backbone.
I feel terrible on very low carb ketogenic diets. I also feel hungry and anxious when I let my dietary protein and fat get to low. My digestion and elimination gets better when I keep my fiber higher with green smoothies and a psyllium husk supplement and it also improves when I eat yogurt and kefir.
When are vegetarians Paleo?
I’ve talked to a few vegetarians who are actually eating pretty close to Paleo. They’re basing their diet on a large amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, not eating a lot of grains, beans or processed foods and they’re eating local dairy from well-raised animals, small amounts of cheese and sneaking some fish or chicken once in a while. This lacto-ovo model (when done on a Paleo template) is VERY close to the diet some hunter-gatherer societies in Africa subsist on or subsisted on at some point.
But, milk isn’t Paleo!
Milk and dairy aren’t Paleo if you go by the standard and popular definition. But, if you look at a hunter-gatherer tribe like the Maasai in Africa, you’ll see that milk from grass fed cows makes up a portion of their diet. So, is dairy Paleo? That depends. And different dietary templates will work differently for different people…
Here’s My Pet Peeve About Dairy and Paleo…
Something that I think is really silly – and happens A LOT in the Paleo community – is people advocate a “strict Paleo” approach with NO DAIRY and then use dairy-based protein powders like whey and casein. Some of these people even drink their coffee black – and HATE it – in an effort to avoid dairy. And then they use 10 scoops of whey protein a day. SILLY! These are usually the same people who give ME flak for using organic goat yogurt in my diet or eating raw cow milk kefir that I make myself from local milk.
My stance on dairy and Paleo is this: if you’re willing to use a processed and heated protein powder from industrially farmed animals, you should NOT use the powder and get the highest quality local, raw, humane and organic dairy you can find!
BTW, if you want a seriously in-depth discussion of this topic and many, MANY others, check out my book, “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link.” It’s a HUGE resource (Over 160 pages!) and it’s had great feedback so far! Click on the link above or the book image below for more info!