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Paleo Diet vs Traditional Diets

Before I get into the above subjects, I want to mention a small format change. With so much to say about holistic nutrition, I am a bit frustrated with being limited to only one topic a month. So at the end of each column I will blast out a random holistic concept for the readers to ponder. Think of it as a Tweet from a technology challenged author.

There’s a lot of buzz about the Paleo diet. It’s very popular among CrossFit athletes as well as others. It’s based on anthropological principles as much as nutritional ones. The basic premise is that our genetic ancestors were hunters and gatherers until the advent of modern agriculture—about 10,000 years ago. Skeletal remains of humans from that period indicated that they were taller and stronger than their agricultural descendants.

Ten thousand years is a tiny blip in our genetic evolution of approximately 2 million years. Our DNA is essentially the same as that of our pre-agricultural ancestors. So, the theory goes, we are genetically adapted to eating game, fish, small animals, leaves, roots, seasonal fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts. Grains and legumes, a.k.a. beans, are largely indigestible without additional processing and therefore not thought to be in our ancestral diet. (They still contain a great many anti-nutrients, a subject for future column.) Additionally, milk and milk products were largely unavailable from wild animals, so they are excluded from the classic Paleo diets as well.

There is much to like about the Paleo philosophy if you can get over the fear and the emotional attachment to excluded food groups—especially grains and dairy. The diet emphasizes high-quality protein sources such as grass-fed organic beef and game, pasture-raised poultry, wild-caught fish and cage-free high-omega-3 eggs. Organic vegetables are emphasized as well as quality fat sources such as nuts (macadamias and almonds especially), coconut products, coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Whole eggs and grass-fed meat may be consumed daily since the Paleo philosophy states that saturated fat and cholesterol are only harmful when consumed with a high-carbohydrate diet. I largely agree with this premise.

Fats are the primary fuel in Paleo eating rather than the carbs prevalent in the standard American diet. As I have preached for the past 20 years, good fats are a superior fuel source on which your body was designed to run. Paleo is a modestly high-fat, moderate-to-low-moderate-carb diet. If you implement it properly, you should not miss the excess carbs. If it fuels those insane CrossFitters, who are perpetually in motion, it can fuel a bodybuilder, so don’t set up any pre-conceived objections.

Concentrated carbs for an active strength athlete would consist mostly of sweet potatoes and purple potatoes after training and two medium-sized servings of lower-glycemic fruit such as apples, blueberries, raspberries and cherries at other times of the day. Some Paleo cookbooks advocate honey and maple syrup. I would avoid those except maybe occasionally in small quantities.

The whole concept is that the hunter-gatherer diet was high in protein, plentiful in natural fats (both animal and vegetable) and moderate in carbs. Most of your daily carbs come from the vast array of vegetables advocated in the diet. Try to hit all the colors of the rainbow for a well-balanced variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Other acceptable carbs you can have occasionally in lieu of a serving of fruit included roasted chestnuts (my theory), pumpkin and butternut squash.

For help in keeping within your daily fat and calorie needs, I have found a few products that make the transition easier—they look and taste like carbs but are largely healthy fat. On the Go Paleo Pancake Mix, Capello’s Almond Flour Fettuccine, Paleo breads and wraps from Julian Bakery, NoGrainola from Primal Paleo Concepts and, finally, So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk or coconut milk creamer in limited quantities for your coffee. Yes, this hunter-gatherer continues to drink gourmet organic high-quality coffee a couple of times a day and definitely before training. It’s a diet, not a religion.

Full disclosure, I started the Paleo diet with minor modifications (like the coffee) about a month ago, and I will keep readers abreast of my progress and discoveries in future columns. My initial impressions have been a huge reduction in food cravings, efficient digestion, stable blood sugar and energy to spare. I truly believe that in order to be a legitimate nutritional authority, one should be open minded enough to experiment with intelligently formulated nutritional concepts.

Random holistic shout-out: Sluggish thyroid? Try eliminating fluoride-containing toothpaste and oral-care products. Fluoride competes with thyroid hormone receptors on the cellular level. Xylitol-containing toothpastes do everything for adult teeth that fluoride-containing ones do and more. Add a fluoride-free peroxide gel for a whitening boost.

—Ron Noreman


Editor’s note: Ron Noreman ( is a partner in Kamler, Lewis & Noreman LLP (, a certified public accounting firm that specializes in tax representation and management of professional athletes, nutritional-supplement companies and weight-training-equipment manufacturers. He has been a competitive bodybuilder for 35 years and won numerous titles, is the founder of Alchemy Nutrition and offers contest-prep coaching and holistic-nutrition consultations. He has also formulated antioxidant supplements for prominent vitamin companies and served as a design consultant for Nebula and other equipment manufacturers.

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