There are 3 main reasons to avoid grains. First, grains like wheat, rye and barley contain gluten, which is a major cause of inflammation in up to 80% of the population. Secondly, grains are carbohydrates. Although we don’t avoid carbohydrates on a paleo diet we do eat a lot less. This is because of the impact carbohydrates have on our blood sugar levels. Taking in carbs causes blood sugar levels to go up. In response, insulin is released to deal with that sugar. Constantly taking in carbohydrates, resulting in insulin being released may eventually lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and eventually as things get worse, diabetes.
Another down side of grains is that carbohydrates get broken down to glucose, or a simple sugar. If we are not active enough to use up all this energy when it is taken in, excess will be converted to glycogen, a fuel source for the liver and muscles, and the rest will be converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Yes… fat. So fat isn’t making you fat, eating too many carbohydrates is.
Finally, grains contain lectins and phytates. These can be difficult to digest and they can cause damage to the intestinal tract that can lead to leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. For more detailed information check out our blog “What’s up with Grains?”
Although most cavemen did not live to the ripe old age of 95, they were strong, healthy individuals that if they managed to survive the dangers of their environment, they lived a long healthy life. There was a high chance of death at birth or in infancy, with the lack of our modern day medical systems to intervene in complicated births. Also, the majority of deaths were from accidents, injury or illness. These are not the types of illness killing people today. They didn’t suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart attacks and cancer, all the modern day killers we are dealing with that show correlations with our poor modern diets.
Dairy, like grains, tends to cause an inflammatory response in many individuals. When we talk about dairy products in the Paleo world, all dairy is not created equal. Processed cheese slices are not even a distant relative of good quality dairy from grass-fed, pasture raised cows, sheep or goats. If you are going to include dairy, please opt for good quality dairy that is free from antibiotics, growth hormones and any other unsightly additives mass producers choose to add to fatten their pocketbook. Ideally choose grass-fed, pastured raised dairy, organic if possible, and you can even go as far as finding raw dairy that has not be pasturised and homogenised to the point where the goodness of the dairy has been destroyed. Also, stop ordering the skinny latte! Full fat dairy is the way to go.
Choosing whether to avoid dairy on a paleo diet or to include it is down to the individual. If you find that you can happily and comfortably consume good quality dairy, then please by all means do. But if eating dairy causes an inflammatory reaction, it is best to be avoided. You can determine this by eliminating it from your diet for about 30 days, the slowly reintroducing it back into your diet, product by product and evaluating your body’s response.
Some people struggle to consume dairy from cows, but find sheep or goats milk to be ok. Again, the Paleo diet is not here to give you right or wrong. This is about your body and what works for you. If you can tolerate it and you choose to enjoy it in moderation as part of a paleo diet, go for it!
Everyone who follows a paleo diet does so for their own personal reasons. The benefits you will see depend on how much you put into it. You can expect to see things like fat loss, more energy, better sleep, improved skin complexion, better fertility, stronger immune system, better control over issues such as Crohn’s disease, Celiac Disease, IBS, heart burn, diabetes, blood pressure issues, and many more. This diet removes the harmful products we have introduced into our modern lifestyles that are full of chemicals, excessive sugar and generally hazardous waste!
Please do not be mistaken… paleo does not cut out any macronutrients. The diet is chocked full of protein, fat and yes, carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are in high supply in fruits and vegetables. If you struggle to take weight off, you may opt to eat fewer starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and root vegetables, or conversely increase them if you want to gain weight. But at no point is paleo a carb-free diet. You can adjust within the framework of the diet to consume the amount of carbohydrate that suites your needs.
If dairy is something your body tolerates, then please, by all means, include some full-fat, good quality dairy into your diet. Things like full-fat cream in your coffee, butter when cooking. If you feel good eating it then there is no need to remove it. Your body may happily digest the lactose. But if you find that it causes you discomfort, don’t eat it. It is as simple as that.