Dan’s Plan summarises the five major Paleo diet theories: Loren Cordain – The Paleo Diet; Robb Wolf – The Paleo Solution; Art De Vany – The New Evolution Diet; Mark Sisson – the Primal Blueprint; and Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet – Perfect Health Diet.
So, at the end of the day what are we left with? Well, it seems like there is a clear consensus that non-starchy vegetables are a critical part of a good diet and should be consumed freely and regularly. Meat and fish are also unanimously recommended, although there is some difference of opinion with regard to which particular meats and fish to approach or avoid. Bear in mind that when thinking about meat and fish, we can think about: 1) how much fat and protein they contain; 2) saturated vs. poly- vs. mono-unsaturated fats; and 3) ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. We feel that there is sound science to support the decision to seek out sources of meat and fish that are high in omega-3 fats (salmon) and low in omega-6 fats (grass-fed beef and lamb). Among the paleo advocates listed here (perhaps not surprisingly), there is also consensus regarding most of the foods that one should avoid. A paleo diet clearly excludes grains, legumes, processed foods, and sugars.
Then there are the gray areas in which the opinions and the science are not as clear or consistent. These areas include dairy, fruits and berries, nuts, and starchy vegetables. Let’s walk through each of these one at a time. For dairy, the primary offending components appear to be milk sugars (e.g., lactose), proteins (e.g., casein), and hormones or growth factors. This is why those who are more lenient toward dairy tend to allow cream, (clarified) butter, and fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir, some cheeses) into the diet. These products typically have little to no milk sugars left because they have been excluded from the final product (cream) or have been chewed up by bacteria (yogurt). It is also important to bear in mind that dairy products from animals raised on grass will contain more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratios of fats than will dairy products from animals raised on grain. Fruits and berries are great for satisfying a paleo sweet tooth, but we have to careful about the types and amounts that we consume. Aim for fewer servings of fruits and berries if you are looking to lose weight and always aim for fruits and berries that have higher levels of nutrients and lower levels of fructose. Nuts are great sources of high density energy and they are portable and convenient. Like fruits and berries, people who are looking to lose weight should limit their consumption of nuts and, like meat and fish, all people should try to eat nuts that have higher levels of omega-3 fats and lower levels of omega-6 fats (e.g., macadamia nuts). Starchy vegetables are a good source of nutrients and carbohydrates for active people. Again, these foods should be consumed with some moderation and we like to scale up or down our consumption of starchy vegetables on the basis of our activity levels throughout the week – high levels of activity permit greater consumption of starchy vegetables, whereas we tend to avoid them more when activity levels are not quite so high.