Is the Paleo Diet Right for You? Here’s What You Need to Know
Almost every popularized diet is surrounded by controversy; or at least a bunch of people arguing about its benefits and value.
Of course, the Paleo diet has not been excluded from such scrutiny. For every person touting its supposed benefits there’s another ready to point out a long list of alleged flaws.
A quick Internet search in either direction will pull up pages and pages of news articles and blog posts explaining either side of the argument.
It seems, though, that there are more people telling the story of how adopting the Paleo diet helped to improve their health and their lives for the better.
She has researched the Paleo diet extensively and offers smart and sensible advice for those who are considering making the change but aren’t sure whether or not it’s the right move.
We chatted with her over email and this is what she had to say.
The Active Times: Can you begin by briefly introducing yourself and your background?
Tina: I am Tina Turbin, a mom of three, philanthropist, recipe developer and health activist as well as a total foodie, avid outdoors gal and hiker to my very core.
I never gave up hope trying to find out the cause of my many digestive issues, muscle loss, bone loss, and nerve troubles, making it extremely difficult for me to pursue my creative work and active life. I had to finally take matters into my own hands when I came across a new, mysterious word on the internet—“celiac.” The very next day, I demanded to be tested for celiac disease. The results were hands down positive. Feeling so much better on a gluten-free diet, I never looked back. Unfortunately, this did not resolve my issues well enough for me after going 100 percent gluten-free and after working about 10 years in this field.
GlutenFreeHelp.info was initially born with an ambitious mission: to make the terms celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, gluten-free, and even grain-free known in every household worldwide. Within a short time “the people” voted my GlutenFreeHelp.info the number 2 .info site in the world over 6.7 million others!
I later moved on to the world of Paleo and found increased energy, gain in muscle tone, balanced hormones, and feeling really terrific. I tuned over my gluten-free website to concentrate on Paleo research, recipe developing, and opening a “healthy” café. The health benefits for me are profound. It is far lower in carbs and much greater in healthy fats, to name just a couple points.
You opted for a gluten-free diet as a result of celiac and then eventually switched to the Paleo diet, can you explain a little bit of that story and also, the differences between a gluten-free diet and the Paleo diet?
I was years working in the gluten-free celiac world professionally. In my heart knew I was not well enough and had not improved enough physically on the standard gluten-free diet. I would interview and work with many MDs and professionals and one day I just decided to pursue more options. Long story short, Paleo came into my world and I have not looked back since, based off the changes in my health, digestion, medical labs and body.
The standard gluten-free diet is high in non-fiber and non-gluten grains and as a result can be very high-carbohydrate, which is high-glycemic. The Paleo is no grains and usually no legumes and the carbs are quite low, allowing the body to become what it was designed to do naturally, be a fat-burning human machine.
For people who aren’t sick or don’t have celiac disease, do you still recommend a gluten-free diet, and if so, why and what are the benefits?
I do feel that gluten, wheat, and such are not ideal at all for our bodies and even sugar and dairy. Many people feel better off dairy as well, or at least in very limited amounts.
Since gluten-free has become a health buzzword for food marketers, do you have any tips that people should follow when shopping that can help them avoid unhealthy foods that are touted as health foods simply for being gluten-free?
Yes, stay away from the baked goods.I could not stress this more for anyone trying to drop body fat through the gluten-free diet. You will not drop weight eating non-fibrous, high-glycemic baked goods, whether it is termed healthy gluten-free or not. High sugar, carbs, and glucose are not helpful to achieving weight loss and health goals and are just not healthy overall.
What are the health benefits associated with the Paleo diet and do you think that it’s something everyone should try?
I think Paleo is for someone who believes in the information about Paleo as a lifestyle, and I do feel going off high and bad carbs, bad fats, and grains is more than beneficial for any human or animal body. I have no questions about that in all I have researched, studied, and seen applied.
The health benefits of removing these foods, getting good sleep, and living an active life are anyone’s test to improved health. There is massive evidence to support the health benefits as far as hormones, bones, skin, muscle, blood sugar, liver enzymes, brain activity—you name it!
There are some arguments over whether certain foods (like beans and legumes) are “paleo” or not, do you have an opinion about any of these “questionable” foods?
I talked about this on my Paleo Food List. Legumes are plants whose seeds develop inside pods. Like cereal grains and dairy products, legumes were not a common part of the diet of our human ancestors before the agricultural revolution.
Legumes, just as with cereal grains, contain antinutrients such as lectins, saponins and protease inhibitors. These cause damage to the intestines and hormonal and immune systems, leading to inflammation and increasing the risk of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
Legumes may be relatively high in protein and fiber, but the protein foods that comprise the basic Paleo Diet (meats, fish, and eggs) are superior protein sources and vegetables, which most are higher in fiber.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about the Paleo diet?
I do not think one diet is for everyone, and the idea that Paleo is a “fad” is just plain ignorantly stated by the uneducated or those who do not read and understand what they read. The Paleo diet is very much man’s basic diet biologically, but I am real and realize we are in the year 2015. Paleo is all about the lifestyle as a whole (diet is only a part of Paleo) and an active lifestyle at that, with good sleep, healthy interactions, etc.
We all share the same basic physiology, which is why the Paleo diet “template” is a good base for everyone to use. There are certain foods that are toxic to everybody. Then there are some foods that only make some of us feel crappy, such as dairy, eggs, nightshades, etc.
First of all, the Paleo diet is a personal fit. What works for me may not work for another. The premise of the Paleo diet is very much a basic workable and well-researched template with which to work with. I do well with eggs, but a good friend of mine doesn’t. Our very basic physiological makeup is the same, but we’re individuals.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to try the Paleo diet but isn’t sure where to start?
Try the basics for two to three weeks, see how you feel, and gauge the changes for yourself. Stay off grains, dairy, and sugar. Enjoy the veggies, proteins, good fats, and get active. Paleo is all about a lifestyle and is not “just” a diet; that idea is so absolutely false.
Also, the Paleo page on my website is a terrific way to start and get educated a bit simply by having the basics. It makes it far easier to follow something if you truly understand it and agree to it. If not, then you set yourself up for a loss.
How might one transition into it slowly so as to avoid feeling overwhelmed?
Some have tremendous willpower and get over their carb/sugar cravings by just going through the process and some have to take baby steps. It is individual but I suggest jumping in and trying it for at least seven days. Up your activity, keeping your mind off of food, and stay away from restaurants the first week. Get prepared, shop, and prep your food if need be. Keep temptations away and negative people away too—they are usually the ones who need the change more than you. They will be the ones who are frequently ill, lazy and/or overweight and unhealthy. Don’t let them drag you down.
Some jump in and do the 30-day challenge, some do the 20-day, some do two to three weeks. Everyone knows what they will adhere to when it comes to change .So, decide for yourself and try what you feel will be acceptable and what you think you will stick to.
Remember, the Paleo diet is not a “one-size-fits-all” diet. You know your body best and which foods you should eat and avoid. If you do not do well with eggs, or some such food, then do not wait for some diet, doctor or lab results to tell you this.
It’s best to think in terms of what you can eat on the paleo diet rather than what you can’t. Please do what fits within your budget and do the best you can. Do not get hung up on every particular thing you may not do perfect.