It seems that everyone is on some sort of low carb diet. The wave of people on some variation of a paleo diet is growing for good reason: carbs are inflammatory and excess carbs lead to increased triglycerides and dense LDL, and hence, heart disease diabetes and even increased cancer risks.
However, it seems many people have their own interpretations about what should be eaten and how much can be eaten on a paleo diet. In addition, the original goal to be healthier, seems to have been thrown out of the door in exchange for eating as much as someone wants and still not gain weight.
A whole foods diet, low in carbs and cooked food and void of processed food, is a preferable diet, in general. But, when saturated with lots of cooked animal tissue, it becomes inflammatory, acidic and is loaded with carcinogens.
It is true that eating a healthy low carb, clean diet can afford you more calories and more fats while allowing you fat loss and muscle growth. However, unlimited access to animal protein and fat, especially animal tissue cooked at high heat without the presence of water, like grilling or barbeque as opposed to a meat stew, creates a myriad of heterocyclic amines and has been shown to increase bowel inflammation.
In addition, most people do not buy organic meat, dairy or eggs and therefore expose themselves to pesticide residue and GMOs. Animals raised on soy and corn meal, produce meat and eggs which has a poor ratio of omega oils, being predominantly omega 6. And, soy and corn feed are rich with GMOs and pesticide residues which concentrate in fatty tissue and egg yolks.
The theory behind a paleo diet is until 10,000 years ago (a very short blip of time in our evolution), humans ate as hunters and gatherers. Our diet consisted of fresh kill and all kinds of foraged greens, seeds, nuts, berries, insects and sea greens and mollusks, if near the ocean. There is little evidence for grains being part of the diet until about 10,000 years ago.
From a health perspective, avoiding grains typically reduces one’s carbohydrate load and eliminates commercial snack food, both very good things. However, people interpret “paleo” in many ways. Paleo does not mean eating unlimited amounts of meat, eggs, bacon and butter. Early man, worked in egalitarian social groups where food was shared, there would not have been unlimited access to these foods.
Cooking meat increases heterocyclic amines and hence increases risk for cancer. Raw meats such as steak tartar do not have heterocyclic amines and it is not known if raw animal protein increases cancer and general disease risks as cooked meats do. But, most do not eat unlimited amounts of raw meat.
Plant based diets are loaded with proteins as well as phytonutrients and are less acidic in nature. While it is important to eat adequate fats, including saturated, this can be done with a plant based diet which incorporates, coconut, macadamia and cocoa (chocolate) butters or oils. Seeds, nuts, and avocados are also wonderful sources of important and healthy fats.
In general, with few exceptions, plant based diets do not stress resources in the same way meat based diets do. The amount of water and energy required to produce a pound of animal protein is several times that necessary to make plant based protein. And, the amount of CO2 produced to produce animal protein is several times greater than the CO2 produced for plant based protein. Westerners, especially Americans, eat huge amounts of animal protein and if the rest of the world wanted to eat like Americans, we’d need 2.5 more planet earths just to do this. Whether grass fed cattle produce more or less methane has been an ongoing debate. Evidence shows omega 3 oils (grass fed ) fed to cattle, reduce methane production, but grain-fed fatten quicker and therefore have a shorter life-cycle which reduces the individual cow’s lifelong methane production. Grain fed is unnatural and unhealthy.
On a large scale, eating beef will never be an environmentally sound choice. And, a diet high in animal tissue will always be pro-inflammatory at the least and pro-cancer at the worst.
This is not to say that a diet with a modest amount of grass-fed meat is unhealthy, it’s a diet heavy on unlimited amounts of meat which is the problem.
In addition to the pro-inflammatory and ecological issues, excess protein is converted into glucose by the liver during the process of gluconeogenesis. So, if you have a history of eating excess carbohydrates or have had insulin resistance, eating excessive protein is not going to lower your glucose or insulin levels. To really reduce your glucose and insulin levels, you need to reduce your carbs; eat only the amount of protein you need and eat the rest of your calories in healthy fats.
How do you know how much protein you need? for a normal person just trying to maintain their muscle mass 1 gram of protein per kilo weight of lean body mass is appropriate. More if you are weight training and actively building muscle mass. For an lean 120lb female, 50 grams of protein is adequate, if she is very active in strength work, even 60 to 70 grams could be appropriate but at this level of protein intake, it would be important to check urinary pH levels to make sure there is no acid ash being produced and then neutralized.
Excess proteins lead to an acidification of the system which in turn, needs to be neutralized by bicarb. The bicarb is pulled from bone sources in the form of calcium carbonate. This process leads to bone resorption and mobilization of calcium, two things everyone wants to avoid. This is theoretically the reason we see more osteoporosis in those with high dairy intake, and vascular calcifications in those with a high meat intake.
Eating a more plant based, paleo, low glycemic, whole foods based, diet is easy and healthy. If you love meat, eat grass fed buffalo, beef, butter, wild venison etc, but do it in moderation and have your extra calories come from healthy fats like nuts, seeds, coconut or cocoa (chocolate plant) butter and avocados as well as raw and cultured vegetables for fiber. Keep an eye on the protein intake and of course, keep the carbs to a minimum.