Wednesday, May 05, 2010

FormSpring Questions on Starting Paleo

By Diana Hsieh

Over the past two months, I've answered a slew of questions on FormSpring. I've covered all kinds of topics, from sex to academia to fallacies to paleo. My answers are not so fine-tuned as my blog posts, but I think they're still of interest -- at least as fodder for further discussion in the comments. I've got about four posts worth of paleo-relevant questions and answers that I'll be posting here on Modern Paleo. (Almost everything I've done so far will be posted to my personal blog NoodleFood over the next few weeks.)

Some FormSpring Questions and Answers with advice on starting a paleo diet:

Does the paleo diet "work" if you don't adhere to it strictly, or do the benefits only come if you completely cut out the forbidden foods, like wheat?

Health isn't an all or nothing proposition: it exists on a continuum. So if you eat better, you should look, feel, and perform better to some extent.

That being said, if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease -- as many people do -- then until you give up wheat, you'll still fare badly.

In you're willing and able, why not try paleo for a month in a serious way? Then you can judge its value to you for yourself.

What would you do if you really thought paleo eating was the way to go, but you're a super-busy single-parent with no spare time and you're lucky to get to feed yourself at all, let alone spend a lot of time thinking about it or shopping?

I'd focus on the big stuff: minimize grains, sugars, and modern vegetable oils as much as possible in favor of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, veggies, and high-fat dairy.

To do that, you'll probably want to clean the junk out of your pantry, shop for the essentials, and then seek out restaurants that serve better food for eating out.

Notably, I spend far less time shopping and cooking on a paleo diet than I used to -- and I now cook every night (and day). I go to the grocery store once per week, and I can whip up an excellent meal of meat and veggies in 15 minutes.

Also, you might try eating better breakfasts one week, then adding better lunches the next, then adding better snacks the next, then finally adding better dinners. That way, you can adjust gradually, and the change doesn't seem so overwhelming. [That's Robb Wolf's suggestion.]

A person doesn't need to become totally paleo overnight. Any steps in the right direction are ... well.. steps in the right direction.

I hope this doesn't come across as rude, but... If the paleo diet is so effective, why is it that the media hasn't covered in it great detail?

It's not rude, it's the fallacy of appeal to authority!

The media is hardly the best judge of the value of anything, let alone the value of diets. More often than not, reports on nutrition in the popular media are particularly moronic. (That's saying something!)

As an alternative to judging the value of something based on the extent of its media coverage, might I suggest that you think and judge for yourself? Really, that's the only way to live.

Also, for the sake of accuracy, I should know that paleo-type diets have been getting some media attention lately.

[There was lots of discussion of this answer on Facebook.]

Can you still follow something approaching a paleo diet if you require high fiber for medical reasons?

I don't know about the fiber contents of vegetables, so I couldn't say. You'd have to look into that for yourself. However, I imagine that eating paleo with a boatload of veggies would involve a fair amount of fiber.

Personally, I don't pay a lick of attention to fiber content of foods. As a general matter, I'm highly doubtful of the value of fiber, including of claims that a person needs fiber for medical reasons. If I needed fiber for some reason, I definitely wouldn't get it from grains. But that's me; you'd have to do your own research.

I would recommend Gary Taubes' discussion of fiber in Good Calories, Bad Calories. Also, Stephan Guyenet wrote up some interesting commentary in favor of fiber from veggies here.

I hope that's at least somewhat helpful.

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