Seems there has been nothing short of a deluge of paleo diet books coming out lately and most of them are quite good, but one came across my desk that I think will prove exceedingly helpful to folks trying to adopt the paleo lifestyle in a modern world. It’s called Practical Paleo and the name says it all.
Here’s why I think it stands out.
Back when we wrote Protein Power (in 1996) and Protein Power LifePlan (in 2000) we felt that we had laid out exactly why it is important to human health and fitness to follow a diet more in sync with our paleolithic biochemistry. And particularly with the LifePlan, we thought we’d presented a low-carb diet in a way that would allow people to individualize their levels of commitment to making the change from the high-everything-American-diet to one ever closer to the paleolithic ideal, by laying out not just the whys, but the hows in our three levels: Hedonist (only carb restriction), Dilettante (paleo-lite–ie, allowing alcohol, some non-gluten grains, organic dairy, and a little artificial sweetener), and Purist (true paleo low carb.)
We got mountains of letters (email and snail) singing the praises of these two books. People would invariably say ‘Now I understand! I’m convinced! I believe! So tell me what to eat!’ Oddly, we thought we had.
Granted, we didn’t offer specific meal plans in Protein Power; I resisted doing so for years, because treating thousands of patients taught me that one size rarely fits all where personal taste is concerned. I can’t tell you how many ‘I don’t like that’ and ‘I can’t eat that’ comments we’ve gotten over the years, when we worked to help patients devise meal plans for themselves in our practice. For instance, we had one patient years ago, who would eat no sources of protein except shrimp and egg whites.
Bowing to the requests for plans–although I still wanted to give people freedom of choice in what they ate–in the LifePlan, we presented mix and match meal suggestions. Here, the dieter was directed to combine a protein of choice with any of various bundles of fruits, veggies, and (depending on which level of commitment) grains that we had scaled in portion to add up to the recommended carbohydrate intakes for intervention (treatment level), transition, and maintenance living. But the letters kept coming requesting specific meals. Clearly there are many people who want to be taken by the hand and told step by step, meal by meal, what to eat, especially when becoming acquainted with a new way of doing something.
So, in response, in 2003, we wrote The 30-Day Low Carb Diet Solution, which was truly a few pages of science (just the merest gist) and 30 days worth of low carb breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and the recipes to cook them. (Heads up disclosure: the approach laid out in 30-DLCDS is not paleo. It’s purely and only low carb, which is a great step in the right direction of getting healthier, but not the non plus ultime diet for humans, since it contains neo foods as well.)
But as we have written so often over the last 15 or 20 years, our firm belief is that the closer you come to the paleo diet your ancestors thrived on, the better you’ll thrive. So, for those of you who have been considering going paleo, for those of you who are trying it but not sure about how to make it work for a family, for those who want the practical how-to-do-its, Practical Paleo offers that and more. Diane Sanfilippo gives you 30-day meal plans tailored to meet specific goals, whether you’re aiming for fat loss, to enhance athletic performance, adopt a squeaky clean paleo life style, or recover from illness. The book offers how-to instructions for making your own pro-biotic (fermented) foods, ghee, and bone broth; it includes tear out guides for shopping, and over 120 gluten-, grain-, legume-, dairy-, and refined sugar-free recipes.
All in all it’s a very good book. If I have a quibble with it, it is this: After a couple of decades of hands-on treatment of thousands of overweight and metabolically unbalanced patients (those with diabetes, fatty liver, and the other sequelae of insulin resistance) in our clinics, I firmly believe that the absolute number of carbohydrates–regardless of how ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome’ or ‘paleo’ they might seem–still matters in resolving these issues. Based on that I would argue with her inclusion of sweet potatoes for diabetics, because although there are some nice vitamins and minerals in there, 60 grams of carb at a sitting is still 60 grams of carb and while it might not cause much of a blip in the young and healthy and athletic, my experience is that it will derail blood sugar and insulin control in the metabolically challenged. I might be skeptical of including such concentrated sugar sources as black-strap molasses or pure maple syrup as acceptable sweeteners for folks trying not just to prevent but to turn around a metabolic Armageddon. But these are small points in a really good and helpful resource and one that will do a world of good for people who take it to heart. So give it a look. I think you’ll find it worthwhile.
I started off following low-carb and moved to low-carb primitive. I run a few discussion forums on each and most people recognize primitive diets as mostly low-carb. The starchy foods that are labeled “paleo allowed” generally aren’t a part of everyday diets for most. The one thing I like to point out is that regardless of whether or not primitive people had access to starchy carbs, they didn’t have it very often or for very long. The foods had to be in season- and then the adaptations for both leptin and insulin seasonal resistance would have kicked in and they’d have gained fat.
HI Mary Dan
This is the first time i am commenting on your site, although from time to time i comment on dr mike’s site (although his posts are now about as rare as beefsteak in a vegetarian restaurant, he should do something about that). Anyway, i think you make two important points that are often missed in considering paleo and diet in general.
First i agree wholeheartedly that the amount of carbs is critical, more critical than weather the carbs are paleo or not.
secondly, age and the previous living of the person is critical. what a 15yo will take in stride, or at least be able to recover from, could kill 50yo pre-diabetic.
the paleo principles are sound, but they must not be made into a temple religeon. we must understand why they work and how we can get the same benefit. for example, on a site i got from dr mikes twitter, it was pointed out that humans could digest fruits and some veg uncooked, but cooking made grains and starchy tubers digestable like fruit.
we need to have a deep respect for our paleo heritage, and learn from it how to live and eat today, but it is folly to try to turn back the clock.
MDE: Amen to that!
Having read your books almost four yrs ago and very successfully dodging the diabetes 2 bullet, I continue to educate myself reading many of the low carb, paleo, wheat belly, and gluten free recently published books. After each one I come away with this statement. “Ninety percent of what is being written now is exactly what the Eades told us in PPLP!” I am 72 yrs. old, have as much energy as I did at 30 and thank God every day for all that you both have done to promote good health for millions of people. I also LOVE Dr. Mike’s southern humor!
MDE: Thank you. You made my night!
Hi Dr. MD – your review is very helpful. Although I have not read the book you reviewed, your critical comments lit up lightbulbs for me because I am one of those you described trying to turn around my metabolic Armageddon (perfectly said). I am constantly researching about my condition and get quite conflicting information regarding specific foods, This is my 2nd attempt at low carbing and trying to do it right this time. The sweet potato thing made me realize I was doing things wrong. Before I eat something, I look it up in my ipad and I get info that it’s good for me, will help diabetes, etc. So I eat sweet potato, use a bit of maple syrup and black-strap molasses, fresh corn, etc., thinking I’m still doing low carb because I read somewhere these things are OK. Instead what happened is denial eating slowly drove me down a downward spiral and my blood sugar has never been higher. So, I’m trying to do this over again and do it right this time. I lent my Protein Power book to someone and never got it back. I plan on getting your Lifeplan book.
MDE: Don’t give up! But do remember that when metabolism is seriously out of balance, half measures won’t fix the problem. At least in our experience, using a strict low carb diet as a tool to restore the balance is the quickest and most effective way to getting things back in control. Then once they’re in control, the occasional sweet potato or bit of molasses is something tolerable. Good luck and keep after it!
Wow, I don’t know how I missed seeing this earlier, but thanks for the kudos. I agree about the sweeteners for diabetics (or omission of), and I don’t believe I included any sweetened/treats recipes in their plans despite the recipes’ inclusion in the book overall. I also am in agreement that an ideal diet for a diabetic would likely not include very starchy foods, but I wrote the meal plan under the assumption that the person is coming from a SAD/high-carb/high-refined-carb diet, and understanding that they might do very well with this adjustment even if it’s not their last-stop for an intervention.
MDE: Totally agree. In our practice we always tried to be realistic with patients and to run with what their immediate situation would allow. It’s not always the ideal. It’s not always perfect. But it’s a step in the right direction. Hope the book is doing swimmingly well!
Dr Eades, do you have any information from your clinic regarding the recuperative effects of the conrolled carb diet on the geriatric population? I am working my way to a Nurse Practitioner degree, and Most of the meds my geriatric patients are on could be discontinued with a controlled carb diet. However, I’m wondering if there is a threshold of damage that may have occurred in the elderly that can’t be overcome by diet alone?
MDE: Excellent question. We have often remarked that if the elderly could only be given some protein and sufficient Vitamin D3, they would be a world better off. There is not doubt in my mind (that’s an ‘n’ of 1) that a huge benefit could accrue the elderly if they would: 1) eat sufficient protein, even low cost protein such as eggs and hamburger and tuna fish, particularly eggs, since it would give them cholesterol that is so important for their brain function and 2) get sufficient fat, particularly the fats that help immune function, such as butter and coconut oil, but they’re all scared witless about fat, which is unfortunate and 3) enough Vitamin D3, since they’re all scared witless about sun exposure, too and 4) zinc (in combination with other trace minerals, of course) so that they can taste and relish the food they eat again.