In general, Paleo/Primal eating is considered “low carb dieting.” At least, that is, when you compare it to the usual carb intake of the average American. However its important to free yourself from the rigid concept of what “Paleo” is or is not. Its a mental framework or foundation from where we make educated decisions about what we include or restrict from our diets, but it is not a religion or set of rules we all must abide by. One of the largest sacred cows of people who latch on to Paleo as if it were a religion is that carbs are bad and need to be kept very low. In this instance, context is key. If you’re overweight, diabetic, or otherwise metabolically deranged, yes you should more than likely skew your diet towards the very low carb (VLC) range. But what about the average healthy adult, or even the athlete? Shouldn’t their needs differ? Just what is it about carbohydrates that makes them inherently evil?
Many Paleo/Primal gurus blame rampant carbohydrate increases with the rise in diseases of civilization. Some even go so far as to dismiss the concept of calories altogether, instead claiming that hormonal changes within the body are entirely to blame for weight shifts either positive or negative. First of all, plenty of folks have dieted down to single digit bodyfat percentages on very high carb diets. The path to doing so is to restrict calories. When calories are restricted body weight goes down. When calories are increased, body weight goes up. Now…might there be some hormonal reaction to the increase in food volume eaten that is somehow unconnected to the concept of a calorie? Perhaps…but do I really need to understand how the light bulb works to know that when I flip the switch on there is light and when I flip it off the light goes away? Granted, when there is electrical problems, just like when there are metabolic problems, it might require a closer look, perhaps by a professional. But that doesn’t change the fact that in the majority of cases the light switch constitutes and excellent tool for controlling light in your house.
Now, as for blaming carbohydrates for all of our modern woes, I believe the answer is a little too simple. In reality the issue is more likely multifactorial, involving tons of moving parts. In fact, in a post regarding “fructose alarmism” Alan Aragon posted some interesting statistical data re: our caloric intake over the last 30 or so years (for source data click on the link to check out Alan’s post):
- Meats, eggs, and nut kcals decreased 4%.
- Dairy kcals decreased 3%.
- Percentage of fruit kcals stayed the same.
- Percentage of vegetable kcals stayed the same.
- Flour and cereal product kcals increased 3%.
- Added fat kcals are up 7%,
- Added sugars kcals decreased 1%
- Total energy intake in 1970 averaged 2172 kcal. By 2007 this hiked up to 2775 kcal, a 603 kcal increase.
- In every instance of autoimmune conditions that have been tested for the presence of gluten sensitivity, it has been present
- Not every autoimmune condition has been tested, but again, see the above bullet
- This may not mean anything to those who do not suffer any autoimmune conditions or show any symptoms of gluten sensitivity, we can’t be sure.
- That being said, there isn’t a lot of valid arguments to including cereal grains in your diet. There is absolutely nothing grains can provide you that vegetables or fruit cannot provide you in a more nutritious and less calorie dense package.