Why I Don’t Eat Paleo

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist November 3, 2011

Despite the many grain free recipes on this blog and my frequent admonition to eliminate refined grain based carbs from the diet and limit even properly prepared grains to a moderate level, I don’t choose to eat paleo or primal.

I especially don’t want my children to eat this way.

My reasons are pretty straightfoward when it comes to Paleo. They are more subtle with regards to Primal.

Paleo Diet – Misguided from the Get Go

The Paleo Diet as written by Loren Cordain can be quickly dismissed as unhealthy because it makes a number of wild claims that are completely unsupported through close examination of Traditional Societies as studied and documented by Dr. Weston A. Price in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

For starters, he says that wild animals are low in fat, but buffalo fat is more saturated than even beef fat from domesticated cattle.

He recommends canola oil as a source of omega 3 fatty acids yet most canola oil is deodorized during manufacturing which destroys these delicate fats.

Cordain extols the virtues of lean meats but Traditional Man prized the fatty, cholesterol rich liver and other fatty cuts.

Perhaps Cordain’s most ridiculous suggestion of all is to rub flax oil on meat before cooking.   Flax oil should never be cooked as it turns rancid and would be toxic and carcinogenic to consume!

His recommendation against grains and all starchy root vegetables (tubers) goes against discoveries of grains in the ashes of some of the most primitive humans and widespread use of tubers by many Traditional Societies.

Finally, his claim that primitive man did not consume salt is just plain baffling.   Just because a salt shaker wasn’t on the dinner table doesn’t mean that salt was not consumed via other methods!

Ashes from salt rich marsh grasses were added to food in African tribes.   Salt rich blood from hunted game was used in food preparation after being carefully collected.

In the final analysis, there isn’t a whole lot that is paleo about The Paleo Diet!  

With so many misguided recommendations in the book as a whole, embarking down the path of the Paleo Diet is clearly fraught with a clear and present danger to health!

Primal Diet – Traditional But Is It Optimal?

My reasons for not eating Primal, however, are a bit more subtle.

Folks who eat Primal typically base it on the book The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.  The diet excludes all cereal grains and recommends against all conventional dairy although raw dairy is considered acceptable.   Saturated fat and cholesterol are rightfully embraced as health supporting.

The book warns against soy, transfats, phytates, processed foods, and of course sugar.

In essence, the Primal Diet does indeed recommend a way of life and eating that is in harmony with Traditional Wisdom and following this approach to eating can be a healthy choice for some.

For example, the Fitness Editor for this blog, Paula Jager CSCS, eats Primal.   No doubt she is a picture of health.  Strong and vital, her approach to eating is very much based on Traditional Cultures and her health is a testament to her thoughtful approach to eating.

Despite this, I don’t choose to eat Primal and I do very much insist that my children include properly prepared cereal grains and starches in their diet on a moderate level.

Why?

Not All Traditional Diets Are Created Equal

In Dr. Price’s travels, he noted that some Traditional Societies were healthier and had more excellent physical form than others.

For example, during Dr. Price’s travels in Africa, he examined several five cattle keeping groups:  The Masai of Tanganyika, the Muhima of Uganda, the Chewya of Kenya, the Watusi of Ruanda, and the Neurs tribes on the western side of the Nile near the country of Sudan.

These groups were largely carnivores with their diet consisting primarily of blood, meat and milk.  Fish was also eaten by some.  The liver was highly priced and was consumed both raw and cooked.

Grains, fruits, and vegetables were consumed in small amounts.

These largely carnivorous tribes were very tall with even the women averaging over 6 feet in height in some tribes.  All these tribes had marvelous physiques and perfectly straight, uncrowded teeth.  Six tribes had no dental decay whatsoever.

On the other extreme, Dr. Price also examined largely vegetarian tribes such as the Bantu.   This agricultural group’s diet consisted primarily of sweet potatoes, corn, beans, bananas, millet and sorghum.  A few cattle or goats were kept for meat and milk and frogs, insects, and other small animals were also consumed.

These tribes were dominated by their carnivorous neighbors and they did suffer from low levels of dental decay – about 5-6% of all teeth.

The final African group Dr. Price researched were the Dinkas.   The Dinkas followed  a truly mixed diet of whole foods without the tendency toward the extremes of the carnivorous Masai or the agricultural Bantu.

While not as tall as the primarily carnivorous, cattle herding groups, they were physically better proportioned and had greater strength.

The Dinka diet primarily consisted of nutrient dense, properly prepared whole grains and fish.

Dr. Price’s close study of these African groups convinced him that the best Traditional Diet – one that encourages optimal physical development in children – consisted of a balance of properly prepared whole grains along with animal foods (especially fish), and not tending toward extremes in either direction.

This is surely one of the most important lessons from Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  Avoiding of extremes particularly when it comes to the diet of growing children, is the best and most wise approach when their optimal development is the goal.

So while I am not against eliminating grains in the diet particularly when a temporary period of gut healing is called for (such as with the GAPS Diet), the long term optimal way of eating is a balanced one that includes grains as described and noted by Dr. Price.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Sources:  Nasty, Brutish and Short?

The Paleo Diet, Thumbs Down Book Review

Picture Credit

 

Comments (159)

  1. Interesting.

    I eat primal, basically, and just wanted to point out that a lot of what you’re saying is actually “backed” by Mark Sisson. It’s not in the book, but Mark and his team are pretty good with updating the website (www.marksdailyapple.com) and staying current to the motions of Paleo/Primal or “Ancestral Health”… not long ago Mark/co wrote an article regarding grains, and how properly prepared they cease to be as dangerous (as WAPF has already noted long long long ago) though he did mention this is something to undertake if you actually want to eat them, personally I see no real need and don’t feel as though I’m missing out. If ever I do want some grains (bread/whatever) I just eat them straight up. I figure I only do this a handful of times a year, so I can handle it.

    Similarly, paleo bloggers such as Robb Wolf have begun to revise some of their dietary restrictions, most notably the move towards “safe starches” such as white rice and potatoes, where before they were shunned by paleo, are now back on the menu.

    I don’t think people should totally base their diets on what others think, I for one never stopped eating potatoes because a) they’re a real food and b) I love them, and they’re a big part of my culture, and I’m not overweight/metabolically deranged.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you are maybe a bit out of the overall loop, not your fault I’m not expecting you to read all these blogs daily or nothing as you must be plenty busy running your own site and taking care of your family. I just want your readers to know that both these approaches to diet are still evolving, but I endorse their overall message, as it seems you do (for the most part) as well.

    Love your site!

    Reply
        • The difference between primal and paleo is that the former includes some dairy and is intended as an entire lifestyle. Paleo is the overarching theoretical model, though that term is losing ground to “ancestral health” as the field splits between strict adherents (such as crosfitters) and those who are more generally interested in better health, allergy reduction and such.
          It’s a bit unfair to trash an entire integrative model of health promotion based on a single superceded book. As other commenters have noted, there’s a LOT more to paleo than Loren Cordain.
          Lauren\’s last post: Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

          Reply
          • I’ve been following a primitive diet for more than five years now and I use the terms paleo/primal/primitive/caveman diet (even “ancestral” at times) interchangeably. I eat some raw dairy, mostly cream and butter and eat a bit of white rice and oats. I run several communities for paleo diet and lifestyle and I find most adherents use the terms interchangeably as well.

        • Actually Paleo is evolving to include more fats and I believe he no longer endorses canola oil. I have a Paleo friend who likes to debate and keeps me updated that way. (we do gaps).

          Reply
  2. I’m really glad you put that last paragraph in there! I agree with your philosophy on diet for the most part (although since our corn supply is almost 100% contaminated with mold/fungus, I think you should avoid all corn and corn products as much as is humanly possible). IF YOU ARE ALREADY IN GOOD HEALTH AND A HEALTHY WEIGHT. However, if you have any type of health symptoms or are overweight, I think you should adhere to a completely grain-free diet free of sugar, potatoes, grain-fed dairy and meat, and even most fruits and legumes (especially peanuts) that are either high in sugars or starches until you are symptom free. I have some VERY serious health conditions due to poor medical care, poor diet, and environmental toxins early in life and I can attest that eating a diet similar to GAPS called the Know the Cause Phase One Diet has greatly improved my overall health. As your health and/or weight improves, you can and should add back in healthy grains, fruits, and legumes – only temporarily removing them in periods of sickness or following indulgence in unhealthy diet.
    M1ssDiagnosis\’s last post: My Good Samaritan

    Reply
      • I’m a bit puzzled by this… you write:

        > Yes .. we cut out grains if we are sick in our home as it does help simplify digestion
        > and we do get well faster

        does that not say something to you about how much strain cereal grains puts on your digestive system? You have admitted that you get better faster when not consuming them, so why go back to eating them when you are better, just to begin the cycle again?

        If you compare a bowl of vegetables to a bowl of cereal, it’s not hard to see which contains the most nutrients and is easier to digest – for everybody.

        I’m also curious as to what you mean by ‘properly prepared’?

        Out of interest, have you read Wheat Belly: http://www.amazon.com/Wheat-Belly-Lose-Weight-Health/dp/1609611543 you might find your opinions on whether wheat adds anything to a healthy diet changes somewhat…

        Best wishes

        Tara

        Reply
        • From what I’ve read, the Dinka ate millet and rice. The fact that they thrived on those grains doesn’t mean all grains are good.

          I second the recommendation for Wheat Belly. It does a good job explaining why the wheat we have today is in no way traditional and is in every way bad for you. Soak or ferment it all you like. It’s still bad stuff. It isn’t even the same wheat that was around when Price was doing his research. Corn has also been altered greatly from what people used to eat. I generally avoid grains and have seen greatly improved health. I’m not afraid of a little rice now and then, but gluten grains and corn are on my hit list.

          Reply
          • we also eat rice at home from time to time. I think it’s pretty ‘safe’ as far as grains go, also quinoa which isn’t technically a grain anyway!

            corn and wheat I avoid at all costs!

  3. Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

    I think bottom line that there is tremendous confusion out there about Paleo and Primal and whose philosophy is what. The idea is to eat balanced and not exclude a healthy group of foods like grains and starches except during a period of healing perhaps.

    Excluding grains I think is particularly risky for children as properly prepared cereal grains add much to their diet after the age of 1.
    Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Why I Don’t Eat Paleo or Primal

    Reply
    • There’s not much in grains that we can’t get in better quantities and more absorbable forms elsewhere. Considering the tiny size of childrens’ stomachs, I find that wasting their limited appetite on grains rather than something more energy dense is unwise. In addition, the risk of gluten and its comorbidities is just not worth the ease of a noodle-based dinner or sandwich-centric lunch.
      Lauren\’s last post: Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup

      Reply
    • I’m also curious as to why you think grains are necessary for kids. I eat mostly primal, though if I want bread I’ll pull out my sourdough starter and make some bread the hard way so at least I have to work for it. But given the lack of nutrients overall in grains compared to other sources of carbs (like sweet potatoes) – can you explain? Other than using WAP’s observations; that is not enough of an answer for me personally. A starting point but not the whole answer.

      Reply
      • Yes, Sarah, I would love to know what your research shows on this. I have looked and looked, as I certainly don’t want to short-change my children in the “health department.” But when I google this, I can’t find support for that claim. Even when I compare a bowl of whole grain pasta or a slice of whole grain bread with a cup of vegetables on a nutrition site, the grains come up way short. So if you are going to fill your child’s tummy with a food, why not fill it with something more nutritionally dense? Any help would be appreciated…

        Reply
    • Exactly, Sarah. If the definition has to keep changing, something wasn’t right about it in the first place. I feel the same about PRIMAL, whatever that is. Good grief, just eat what you want and eat locally. Most people make themselves sick worrying about “oh dear, should I be eating this or should I have that today because I had some yesterday” . . . what a bunch of stress-inducing nonsense.

      Adhering to someone else’s idea of the “perfect” diet is ludicrous. “Perfect” is what’s best for you and that’s to eat whatever you want or whatever you have access to, and that’s the long and short of it. Life is short. Personally I like to eat from all the food groups and have been doing so for 58 years with pretty dang good success! I don’t feel deprived, am not fat, overall healthy for my age, and don’t have unrealistic expectations from myself or my diet.

      Reply
      • I disagree totally. I think the changing probably indicates that they are willing to learn. That they are willing to reverse themselves on occasion indicates open minds. A willingness to learn is far better than being stuck in one position and refusing to evaluate when new knowledge or information comes along.
        One of the things I like about both Mark Sisson’s take on primal and Robb Wolf’s take on paleo is that they both incorporate things like exercise and sleep and light therapy – they are more rounded philosophies in many ways than the real food blogs that base everything they say on WAP or NT and ignore entire other aspects of health. Food is a huge part of the answer but it isn’t the only part. Paleo/primal folks tend to recognize that better.
        Me, I just combine all the info and pick the parts I think make the most sense…. and change my mind if need be. I came to this ‘community’ because I thought Jenny from Nourished Kitchen was crazy doing a 28-day real food challenge and rendering her own tallow and whatnot – an article caught my attention. Now I cook 99% of my meals at home, avoid low-fat crap, cook with coconut oil, soon to try raw milk. If I wasn’t willing to learn and change my mind, it would never have happened. So I just can’t fault folks willing to do the same.

        Reply
        • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

          Willingness to learn doesn’t fix the fact that it was clearly wrong in the first place. It never started from the right premise at the get go. It is best to seek out wisdom that was not inherently flawed from the beginning such as what traditional cultures practiced .. the healthiest of which ate grains and other plant foods in balance with nutrient dense animal foods without being too extreme in either direction. I see Paleo and Primal as a reaction to the overconsumption of grains in our western culture. Overreactions to something are rarely correct. Best to not overreact but to make objective decisions about what to eat based on observation and historical accuracy.
          Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Monday Mania 11/7/2011

          Reply
          • Just wondering? The diet you follow isn’t adapted from discoveries, either? Things once discovered are set in stone, sort of like a Bible? I’m trying to wrap my head around this, but then again I’m not into dogma, but practical experience.

            My own diet tends towards the primal. I eat dairy. And, yes, stepping away from primal, I will occasionally eat real bread or real grain. I feel excellent whether I eat my limited grain or not, but I realize the mileage of others may vary.
            Goats and Greens\’s last post: Looking forward to the backside of 2011

          • My auto-immune disease is ONLY managed by a Paleo/GAPS diet. Sure, my story is anecdotal–hear me out.
            I never knew anything was really “wrong” with my body until I suddenly slipped into a LOT of pain. After a lot of experimentation, the only way I am able to eat and live the way I want to live (not sick) is through a “strict” diet–no grains, no legumes, no dairy. Call it extreme, call it unhealthy–my friends and family will quickly attest to the extreme improvement in my appearance and mood. I don’t believe I’m so different from every other person I meet.

    • They don’t!
      Why add to the misinformation Sarah? I have recommended your site to sooo many people that have not even heard of WAPF or Paleo or Primal or NT!!! Now I am weary. People need to find their own philosophy on healthy eating and after watching Nora Gedgaudas video at the Ancestral Health Symposium I decided that even one grain of gluten was going to get in my way of optimal health! I am saying that I was doing grains in “moderation” with out considering that total elimination would help me get to the healthy place I was after. (my daughter has celiac just diagnosed last year and at 22 yrs old is doing the GAPS diet!) Had I only known when she was a child I keep telling my friends!!!

      Re introducing grains as you suggest (properly prepared) will be a LOT easier for me once I am healthy IF I decide to do it. But for my friends that want in introduction the concept of eating healthier, your site just added to the confusion (in my humble opinion). I will hesitate before recommending your site again.

      Reply
  4. Amanda Kate Donovan via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    this article seems unnecessarily contentious, and is based on some inaccuracies. dr. cordain reevaluated his position on saturated fats and has reversed his stance on canola oil quite some time ago. his is also not the only voice out there. the “paleo” diet is comprised of many, many voices who are constantly reevaluating their position based on new research and information. never the less, dr. cordain has been on the forefront of ancestral diet research and deserves a lot of credit. no one has ever claimed that the “paleo” diet, despite its somewhat unfortunate (but catchy) moniker, is about reenacting the diet of “paleolithic people”. rather it uses the diets and wisdom of modern hunter-gatherers as a model for the optimal human diet in which we receive the highest concentration of micronutrients in the fewest amount of calories, while always experimenting with macronutrient ratios to find the ideal balance for the individual. the paleo diet is more about what a person does not eat than what they do eat. i know a paleo vegetarian, pescatarians, high carb paleo dieters, and zero carb paleo dieters. there are many ways to god, so to speak and i think it would be more beneficial to ALL if we focused on the legion of positive contributions the various movements have made to the ancestral diet movement, rather than tearing other people down in the name of WAP.

    Reply
  5. With my health issues and my son’s ADHD we’ve gone pretty much Primal. Or full GAPS but with sweet potatoes and some beans. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s working. Because of all this my 15 month old has never had a grain. No rice or corn or wheat or oats or anything. Do you think I should add in some for her? I don’t have the $ to buy sprouted flours. But maybe some soaked oatmeal or rice? She’s on the small side (16.7 lbs and 29 in tall) so I make sure she always gets in plenty of fats. She loves broth, meats, eggs, avocado, veggies, fruits, yoghurts, the coconut flour baked things I make, etc. She’s a good eater, just thin. Do you think the grains are what she needs?

    Reply
    • Knocked Up and Nursing November 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm

      My 11 month old has never had grains either. She’s a solid 25 lbs and happily breastfed. She eats egg yolks, some legumes, sweet potatoes, avocados, kefir, yogurt, veggies and fruits. I don’t plan on introducing grains anytime soon. You can also sprout your own flour. It takes time but is fairly easy. I say do what feels right to you and feed baby what your family eats.

      Reply
    • If she tolerates beans well, I would think she would do fine with brown rice and soaked (for 24 hours) oats. One of my kids has ADHD, too. We’re doing gluten-free, but with gluten-free grains and legumes (like sprouted lentils), raw milk too. I bake with brown rice flour/arrowroot combo (tastes the most like ‘regular’ baked goods) or almond flour or coconut flour.

      Reply
  6. Fran Kozicki via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you, this was very helpful. I had been so confused, and realized that the way of eating you described best fits me. Now I have a game plan!

    Reply
  7. Meghan Soderstrom Richey via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Amanda expressed my sentiments well. While Cordain may have been one of the first voices of paleo, he is not the only voice of paleo, and certainly not the main voice. I’d even say most people who identify with “paleo” do not follow Cordain’s book due to its many inaccuracies. Our family chooses to eat a primal diet and we’re much healthier now than when we ate according to the WAPF (though I still embrace the non-grain portions of its teachings).

    Reply
  8. Ian Mildon via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Everyone should ultimately follow what works for them. For me that is an 80/20 Primal, gluten free and very low grain. Is that right for everyone….no it’s not. I have never read any of Cordain’s work as he is not the only source out there.

    I applaud your concern at finding what diet works best for you and your children.

    Reply
  9. Tim Huntley via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Sarah, Check out the likes on Amanda’s comments – I think a lot of people agree with her. I sure do. It would seem that by your definition, a diet that has evolved (Nourishing Traditions for example – which is the amalgamation of lots of cultural wisdom) can’t be optimal

    Reply
  10. Marta Navaret via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Sarah, great posting. I stopped feeding corn tortillas from the store to my kids, now I buy organic corn, soak it for many days and make them myself, they love grassfed chip beef tacos and pastured chicken flautas. I agree they need a balanced diet that includes all food groups.

    Reply
  11. One’s biochemical individuality dictates one’s needs for nutrition. The basis for nutritional needs is based in one’s genes, not in some philosophy or belief. Different nutrients affect different people in different ways. In order to know what food and supplements supply a correct source of fuel, one must first identify one’s unique and specific metabolic needs/ type.

    Reply
  12. I’m a big fan of Marks’ website and peruse it weekly. I agree with most of he says but still don’t get why he sells a protein powder… right now I’m doing GAPS but even that isn’t ‘set in stone’. There are guidelines and ‘musts’ but even those are adjusted for those who cannot tolerate them (such as cooking broth for a shorter period of time, avoiding certain veggies, avoiding nuts/honey for anti-candida, etc.). After going through WAPF, then GF/CF, finally GAPS I can see that no one diet is right for all and you should really do your research. Some advice such as using canola oil or lean meats will always be wrong but everything else should be taken with a grain of salt (pun intended). Great article!
    Magda\’s last post: Progressing on GAPS

    Reply
  13. While I classify myself as Primal, I am not above slathering a piece of real sourdough with butter once in a great while. That being said, I do not consider grain based foods necessary for any real macro or micronutrient contribution to the diet. What nutrients are in properly prepared whole grains that can’t be found in a diet rich in pastured animal products, fish/seafood, vegetables, tubers, fuits, nuts & seeds? There aren’t any to my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    HOWEVER…what we eat, and what we choose to feed our children is ultimately a personal decision. The WAPF protocol of soaking/sprouting/souring is an excellent way to remove some of the anti-nutrients and render grains more nutritious. I absolutely agree with this, but that is quite the process and finding organic, non-GMO, non-toxic grains can be difficult for many. Not to mention the time investment to properly prepare them. While I commend people who take this time to make sure the grains they and their families eat are properly prepared, many might find it easier to just avoid them altogether. I think either/or is perfectly acceptable.

    In today’s day & age, where so many families subsist on a diet primarily composed of GM corn, GM soy, dwarf hybrid wheat, and PUFAs, I think any move toward Paleo (revised), Primal (my favorite), or WAPF style eating would result in dramatic health improvements. Then tweak as you see fit.

    I choose not to eat grains because they make me fat, and make my joints creaky. Vegetable/tuber sources of carbohydrates do not. Is this just me? Am I just vain? Perhaps. But I’m going with what works for me.

    Reply
  14. Howard C. Gray via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    Not to mention epigenetics and microflora Enterotyping puts most “paleo” in question. Eating paleo gave me severe constipation which led to numerous other problems. Eating “traditional” for my “tribe” – ie: Northern European ancestry has done wonders.

    Reply
    • I always see that, and it makes me wonder. We eat so many veggies at my house, and nuts (soaked and dried) that constipation is definitely not an issue – until we have a special day or something and eat bread or sugar again. I guess everybody’s system must react a little differently.

      Reply
  15. Thank you for your post, Sarah. My body needs grains. I’ve been hearing for a while from traditional food people that grains (even traditionally prepared) are bad for one’s health, even though Dr. Price found healthy groups that ate them.

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Unless there is a health reason for doing so (weight problems, gut imbalance etc) eliminating grains from the diet is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      This type of thing does generally happen when there is a REACTION against something that is excess in society – in this case, overconsumption of grains. Responding by cutting them all out of the diet makes little logical sense to me. Perhaps cutting them all out for awhile (even a few years) may be beneficial but I would wager that MOST people who eat Paleo or Primal will eventually go back to eating grains. Just my opinion of course. Extremes in anything particularly in the way one eats tend not to last over the long haul.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Why I Don’t Eat Paleo or Primal

      Reply
  16. Hi Sarah,
    Thanks so much for this article. I have been flirting with the idea of going primal for a while now, but after reading your views and reasoning I think I will just stick with the traditional diet we are on. I really appreciate your knowlege and wisdom in regards to traditional foods. Thanks again.

    Reply
    • She doesn’t quote any sources, and both the Primal Blueprint and the Paleo diet have undergone tremendous changes, and are changing all the time. Look at some studies, read the forums on MarksDailyApple.com, and see that everyone reacts differently to different food choices but in no way are grains and corn anything like they were when they were first domesticated. You can’t read one blog and assume that THAT is the prescribed way of eating. I think these diets and lifestyles may have been touted as a fad, but you really can’t go wrong by sourcing your meat from grass-fed&finished farmers and trying to eat organically/non-GMO with regards to vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, and fats. It’s about sustaining the environment and lifelong health as much as it is about the “diet”. And you might feel just fine eating grains/gluten, but the phytates, lectin, and gluten render their nutrients unavailable to our bodies. A lot of our “traditional diet” has to do with what lobbyists are doing in D.C. Money money money.

      Reply
  17. If people are interested in this subject and educating themselves more, I highly recommend the book Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet by Elaine Gloria Gottschall. She actually explains the science behind why it is difficult for the body to digest grains and certain types of sugars. After a long period of trying various diets, this is the one that has made the difference in my digestion.

    Also, in reference to Weston Price’s observations, it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Definitely important information that he gathered, but let’s not forget that true results must control for all variables that may effect things like height, build, etc.

    Reply
  18. Well I’m not so eloquent with my words so I’ll just say what I think: this article is a piece of crap.
    I have been eating this way (Paleo / primal) for a very long time and while I do eat some grains, I agree 100 percent that any grains should always be soaked and or fermented. I love the Weston A. Price foundation and nourishing traditions. I do consumer some raw dairy and we do not ever advocate the use of canola oil that is completely ridiculous!

    Reply
  19. Also I should add that by eating Paleo/primal I have reached a more healthy weight and maintained it and am in the most excellent health that I have ever been in in my life at 34 years of age. Cutting out grains has cured me of an inflammatory disease and in combination with increased probiotics and fermented foods has healed my gut!

    Reply
  20. Jill Bryant Mitchell via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I wish gut healing was a temporary thing. I have been healing my son’s gut for ten years and still going strong. When I meet someone with a good, healthy gut, I will be sure to mention a good “balanced” diet to them. In the meantime, I will be a strong advocate for grain free, sugar free living.

    Reply
    • @Jill: After 10 years I think I’d be looking at something different. I mean really – 10 years?? Maybe research what you might possibly be doing wrong instead of insisting that a certain way of eating is optimal just because you read it somewhere or it’s good for someone else’s lifestyle.

      It must be creating a stess level not to be believed.

      Reply
  21. What it really comes down to is that food today is vastly different from what are ancestors consumed. Grains, corn, potatoes, and dairy have all changed drastically due to human tampering and environment. Trying to eat like a “paleo” is not really possible. Heck, grains even have more gluten in them today than they had centuries ago.

    Reply
  22. @ Caroline Boles – there is only one ACCURATE way to determine your metabolic type and that is by filling out a very complex online questionnaire from Healthexcel, designed by William Wolcott. You’d need a Metabolic Typing Advisor to guide you through the whole process and explain the results to you. Metabolic Typing started 35 years ago and it’s the only approach that is able to determine what foods are right for your metabolic individuality. We are all unique on a biochemical level as we are in our fingerprints. This is a premise that is unfortunately often taken out of the equation by the “allopathic nutrition” or “nutrient based nutrition”. Check out my website to find out more about Metabolic Typing -www.guide2health.net

    Reply
  23. @ Jill Bryant Mitchell – I am working with people that need intensive gut healing and I know how hard it is to reestablish a normal, friendly gut flora. Sometimes gut flora can even be permanently damaged and the person has to follow a life long protocol to maintain a healthy gut. Depends on many factors. But many times this can be addressed and tremendously improved. If I may ask, what kind of protocol are you exactly following for your son’s gut healing ? You can send me a message with more info if you want, maybe I can help.

    Reply
  24. @Jill of course there are valid health reasons for pursuing a grain free diet. My post describing the observations of Dr. Price that a more balanced and less extreme approach to eating is more favorable is not for those in that situation. I wish you the best with your son’s health journey! He is lucky to have such an attentive Mother such as yourself.

    Reply
  25. I liked the article since it makes very good points based on dr Price’s work. There have been several great pioneers like him that have contributed pieces to the puzzle of biochemical individuality and it’s relation to diet and nutrition. And let’s not forget that US is practically now a “big genetic melting pot”; there are individuals that have 2-4 different types of races in their blood..how could you determine their real “ancestral diet”? There are not “good” and “bad” foods (unless they are processed, and then they are all bad) , there are only right or wrong foods for your metabolism. A “balanced” diet is a VERY general term and for everybody it means different things.

    Reply
  26. Many times you say that cereal grains “add much to the diet” for children. Would you please be specific? I am of the opinion that there is not a SINGLE nutrient found in grains that can not be found in abundance elsewhere, and usually in a more digestible food. If you think grains need to be removed when healing, even from something as simple as a cold (and you say you heal FASTER when they are removed), what leads you to believe that they are good, healthy foods for everyday use, when the body is repairing and regenerating all the time? This sounds like dogmatic adherence to WAP’s findings, just as some paleo/primal people obsessively adhere to their chosen diet guru’s advice.

    And as far as grains in the “ancestral diet”, I think MOST experts are in agreement that these were hand-harvested, teensy tiny little supplements to the diet. Not meals based on grains or sourdough breads. Another distinction to be made…seed grains like millet, teff and quinoa can NOT be used as a reason to support gluten/wheat consumption in the modern childs diet. Apples and oranges.

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      Magnesium for one. Cheeseslave wrote an excellent post about this last week about how those who don’t eat grains are at risk for deficiency of this critical nutrient.

      Don’t eat grains if you don’t want to. I find Dr. Price’s reasons FOR eating them to be compelling and I trust his keen and thorough observations much more than modern Paleo style diets that are evolving as the authors discover their own errors over time (i.e., one of the Paleo experts now eats white rice and potatoes after years of eschewing them – see comment above). If Paleo evolves – this is evidence of flawed premise to begin with.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Why I Don’t Eat Paleo or Primal

      Reply
      • Great observation about the evolving paleo diet, Sarah! I think this is a great article with a very honest approach to your personal eating choices. One thing I can’t believe nobody mentions is COST. I went on GAPS for 6 months and I should have stayed on longer, but the sheer money it takes to fill up your family without beans, potatoes, rice, or bread is staggering. I might also mention that, when I went off GAPS on to a traditional diet low in natural sugars and with a reasonable carb intake, I noticed no difference in weight gain or my blood sugar issues or any other factors that affected how I felt on a day to day basis. Conclusion – I do fine on healthy carbs and starches, just like my European ancestors did.

        Reply
      • I, for one, appreciate when theories ‘evolve’. Imagine if, as new discoveries were made, we never changed our accepted theories and practices to incorporate those discoveries? Diet isn’t dogma, after all… that’s a good thing.

        I get what your point is though – certain foods that were once considered absolute no-go are now considered not so bad, at least for certain people, so the premise that (for example) white potatoes should be avoided across the board was a flawed premise. Certainly, Cordain had several ideas that were inaccurate (and that have since long been dispatched by other researchers in the field, and now by Cordain himself – lots of disagreement in science-based fields, as there should be). Though chucking an overarching idea/theory because a few of the details were not accurate is a baby/bathwater situation.

        In the paleo/primal communities around the web now, the overwhelming attitude seems to be one of self-discovery; that diet is highly personal, and depends on your personal needs and physiology. For instance, many people do just fine on properly prepared grains… as a celiac, I don’t. White rice is fine for me, once in a while… too much or too often, and I gain weight and don’t feel that well. Same goes for certain veggies, and for nuts.

        What I took from your post (and this may or may not have been your intention) is that people tend to over-identify with labels… “I’m a paleo eater” or “I’m a WAPF’r” or whatever. And, due to that, some may doggedly adhere to certain ways of doing things, despite new evidence and data. Personally, I don’t label my way of eating anymore – I keep up with the latest science/research and it influences my decisions, but ultimately I just eat what works for me. (Whether my great-grandmother could eat it or not… I’m not her!)

        Reply
      • I haven’t eaten grains in over 6 years – no deficiency symptoms whatsoever. It’s funny, because in her post she says that if you’re grain-free, or have a leaky/damaged gut, you’re at risk.. but grains GAVE me my damaged, leaky gut in the first place! (I’m celiac). The deficiency symptoms she mentions are interesting – the ones on the list that I once had actually cleared up after I went grain-free. For her, eating grains seems to be helping, which is great. For others like me, eating grains will actually do the opposite. So again – seems to come down to your own personal situation.

        Reply
      • I love Cheeseslave and read her posts often, she is a smart and informed woman, but I would never site her as my magnesium “expert”. As Tracy mentions below, magnesium deficiency can often be caused by grain consumption, whether leaky gut is present or not. There are plenty of rich plant and animal sources of magnesium besides grains, and we could enhance our utilization of this hard to digest nutrient by correcting our digestion, gently cooking the foods and taking them with fat.

        My point is not that everyone should NOT eat grains, but that other factors of health and deficiency should not be overlooked, and that there is absolutely no reason to insist that for a child to be healthy they must. eat. grains.
        Rachel\’s last post: The Recipe: Blood Building/Liver Nourishing Syrup

        Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
          Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist November 4, 2011 at 10:13 am

          I just talked to a family of 15 month old twins the other week who were having fits as their children were very unhappy and not thriving with their no grain, traditional diet of raw dairy, meats, veggies etc.. I suggested to them to add in properly prepared, soaked grains such as oatmeal and now the children are happy and gaining weight again.

          Healthy children do best when given grains in moderation. Unless there is health reason for doing so .. such as GAPS Diet temporarily or permanently if necessary.

          Reply
      • Ummm… how about leafy greens like spinach, several types of nuts, many fish including halibut, to name a few sources of magnesium… sources that don’t require soaking or fermenting to render them somewhat-less-toxic. Frankly, the argument that its cheaper to feed the family grains than fresh veg and pastured meat is much more compelling to me than the claim that one misses out on some key nutrient by skipping grains. I myself include moderate amounts of rice or potatoes sometimes to stretch my food budget, but only for economic reasons, not because I think its nutritionally superior to the alternative.

        For the record, you don’t HAVE to justify yourself at all. You want to feed your family grains – when they are physically able to handle it – go right ahead! Your family, your body, your call to make. But if your goal is to hold up your diet as being the “best” or the most “balanced”, you’ll need to do more than point and laugh at outdated Cordain quotes. What does “balanced” even mean? I don’t want to be balanced between being sick or well, for example, I want to be at the upper extreme of good health!

        You say diets that evolve are inherently flawed. I say diets that need to pick apart outdated information from other diets in order to feel superior are inherently flawed. If you ever choose to add to this article, I hope it includes less snark and more substantive evidence of why THIS diet works for YOU, not why other diets (that do seem to work for other people, by the way) are silly.

        Reply
      • According to the USDA, the top 5 foods highest in magnesium per serving are:

        1.) Halibut
        2.) Mackerel
        3.) Boiled spinach
        4.) Bran breakfast cereal (not whole grain, but the bran alone)
        5.) Almonds

        And the tops 5 foods with highest the magnesium per milligram are:

        1.) Cocoa
        2.) Bran breakfast cereal (not whole grain, but the bran alone)
        3.) Almonds
        4.) Cashews
        5.) Pumpkin seeds

        ALL of these foods except the bran cereal are paleo/primal and whole grains don’t even make it into the top 5.

        There is nothing weird of extreme about the way we eat now… after several years of a kitchen full of soaking/sprouting grains and legumes, sourdough cultures, bread machines, grinders, dehydrators, bottles of FCLO, waiting days between when I decided we’d eat a food and when it was actually READY to eat, etc., we are finally eating a simplified diet. There was nothing more extreme than WAPF for them and nothing simpler or more natural than paleo now. Do my boys eat grain foods away from home? Absolutely. But the bread they’re gonna eat at a friend’s house or the crust from the local pizza shop isn’t just not paleo, it also isn’t WAPF. Cheeseslave made many similar claims in her anti-paleo rant and the fact is that WAPF proponents calling paleo advocates “extreme” is the pot calling the kettle black.

        Reply
  27. This is the first I’ve heard of the paleo diet endorsing canola oil. That seems like a specific case for one paleo supporter and not something widely accepted.

    I switched to full primal about 3 months ago after dabbling in it before. It’s worked extremely well, and I don’t miss or see the need for grains at all. From the research that I’ve done, a lot of the claims of the problems grains have are spot on.

    Ultimately, what works for each individual is best. I would have no problem with small amount of grains very occasionally if they were prepared right (i.e. real sourdough), but overall I’ve eliminated them and have no desire to make them a regular part of my diet again.

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      This post in no way disses Primal. I just give my reasons for not eating this way. If you disagree, that is wonderful.

      I’m just so over grains getting slammed left and right. There is nothing wrong with grains and in fact, Dr. Price observed that the cultures that were not to extreme one way or the other in their eating and consumed grains in balance with their animal food intake were the the most physically excellent and strong.

      Why is this research so often glossed over? I have no idea, but I find it important and wanted to bring it to light for people who feel “bad” that they don’t cut out grains when in fact it is fine and potentially the most optimal way to eat in the final analysis unless there is a health related reason.

      Is this snippishness? I think not.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Eating Lowfat Yogurt While Pregnant a Danger to Baby

      Reply
  28. Hi Sarah – I struggle with the quantity issues -roughly how many calories do you and your children take in on a given day and roughly how much of that equates to meats, grains, vegetables, fruits etc?

    Reply
  29. I think that at the end of the day, the BEST thing about any of the diets/lifestyles that have been mentioned in the posts is that they GET RID OF

    Reply
  30. Oops! Hit the wrong button by mistake :-)
    Anyway…as I was saying… The fact that the mentioned diets GET RID OF PROCESSED FOODS makes them better than the SAD any day!! My husband and I eat Primal/Paleo and we’ve never felt better. When we found out he was diabetic, it was the simplest way I could see to reduce the amount of carbs he was eating but still be satisfied with what we were eating. I love your blog and read it every day so the fact that primal isn’t for you doesn’t matter at all to me. It’s up to all of us to do what we feel is best for us. You still provide an extremely valuable source of information and I really appreciate all of your grain free and whole food recipes. Your grain free breakfast cereal is one of my all time favorites. I just tweaked the amount of maple syrup so that the carbs are much lower and my husband and I can both enjoy cereal again! Thanks Sarah!

    Reply
  31. At 52 years old and having lived in all regions of the United States, I have learned one really valuable lesson on eating. EAT LOCALLY. To eat healthy is to consume regionally the foods grown closest to your home. Less complications of allergies, more opportunity to learn the history of the food and if you can grow your own its better monitored by you than the FDA. Having been raised in Florida I grew up on fresh fish and veggies, educated in California I opened my menu to ethnic foods, but still dish ingredients locally grown. In the North East I learned to make healing soups and stews and in the Midwest I had the best of what free range ranching could produce. I have always stuck to the small multiple meal system and I remember my children,s friends telling their own parent that we are eating all the time instead of the traditional 3 square meals. The base of our plan is not Paleo or Primal, it is human and balanced. We eat lean and clean, we eat fresh or preserved naturally. We dont visit local fast food places and we love to have family meals with everyone contributing a special dish to share. Food is medicine is so many ways. It is your fuel to keep the machine running in it’s best condition. Exercise is every bit as important, but Im more interested in the activity of hunting and gathering as I am the balancing of my inner self. I dont need to be a gym rat to get the exercise I need. I need to get moving! Living healthy is not complicated, it just needs a bit of thought, a desire to take charge of my own health, and not allow advertising or convenience of ready made products to poison my well being. I raised two kids with the knowledge to eat well. What they do with it will be their journey. Either way, I am doing what makes me better.

    Reply
  32. The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson got a thumbs UP review on the Weston Price website (look for it through their health topics page).

    I think one thing that people are reacting to is that Sarah has said that the way to be the most healthy, physically excellent and strong is to add in grains (per WAP). To me, that is the statement that sounds contentious.

    Others are clearly not experiencing that health from eating grains. I am beginning the GAPS journey because I’m such a mess physically. Doing without grains right now is pure heaven. That may or may not be temporary.

    Read Mr. Price’s book to get a fuller picture.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist November 4, 2011 at 11:05 am

      Once you heal on GAPS, it will likely be best for you to add grains back in unless the autoimmune issues are too severe to allow this. My husband healed on GAPS and is better now eating properly prepared grains in moderation than he was before with no grains at all. In time, people will understand the wisdom of Dr. Price’s observations that a balanced and not extreme approach to eating is the best traditional diet of all.

      Reply
  33. Love your blog, but must disagree with you on the grains. I feel grains are bad – even if prepared traditionally. The grains of today have been hybridized and modified so much that nothing is available that even resembles the grains of the peoples that Dr. Price studied. You just cannot aquire good quality grain with the original chromosonal make-up intact. Period. I do agree that some require more complex carbs than the traditional “primal” diets suggest. That’s where healthy legumes (e.g. various beans) and tubers come in. I, personally, add sweet potato and winter squash a lot. White potatoes are out as they have been hybridized and modified too much for my liking. I do not eat any grain and I am healthy, have a great immune system and my weight remains constant. After 18 months off grain, I did have a few servings on vacation in order not to offend my hosts. Boy, could I feel the difference – “sinus-y” issues and joint pain. That can’t be good.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist November 4, 2011 at 11:07 am

      If you had tried properly prepared grains, you may have been fine. I eat grains and I get very tired when I eat them made in a modern fashion. I am in no way advocating eating grains prepared in a modern way. It is better to eat no grains than eating improperly prepared ones.

      Reply
      • Actually, the reaction occurs equally as bad with properly prepared grains. Have tried that “experiment” when craving something “bready”. The grain genomes have been changed so significantly from the past, there is just no way to compare the properly-prepared grains of the peoples that Dr. Price studied with the properly-prepared grains available today. You just can’t get the same grains.

        Reply
  34. Hi Sarah,
    Interesting post, as always. Could you provide a reference for this following statement,
    “Dr. Price’s close study of these African groups convinced him that the best Traditional Diet — one that encourages optimal physical development in children — consisted of a balance of properly prepared whole grains along with animal foods (especially fish), and not tending toward extremes in either direction”.

    I read some of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, but not all of it, and didn’t see this.
    Ruth @ Ruth’s Real Food\’s last post: Maple Syrup

    Reply
  35. I appreciate being able to read about your thoughts and ideas. You cut through it all and present very useful information. Thank you!

    Reply
  36. Great explanation Sarah. I’ve never read the Paleo nor the Primal diet books, but I have many friends that claim these are the most healthy diets you can be on (esp the Paleo). As popular as the Paleo has become, I think you are going to spark a fire storm with this article…. have fun :).
    R

    Reply
  37. Great article Sarah, this really clears things up for me. Just got my GAPS book yesterday and hope I can 100% clear the psoriasis on my scalp as well as a slight remaining allergy and lose another 25 lbs. I seem to do fine with grains a couple of times per week, and I probably consume too many dairy products – looking forward to complete healing and finding the right balance for my body.

    Reply
  38. Hi Sarah,
    It’s very difficult to sum up any subject in just one post, but I thought you hit some great main points. What are your thoughts on raw food, raw meats included, diets? Thanks.

    Respectfully,
    Danny

    Reply
  39. GLAD I FOUND THIS BLOG. IT IS REALLY INTERESTING. IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYONE IS REALLY ON THE SAME PAGE BUT WITH A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT TWISTS. THERE IS NO ONE DIET THAT IS PERFECT FOR EVERYONE ONE, SO LISTEN TO YOUR BODY, EAT FROM NATURE, EAT LOCAL AND COOK YOUR OWN FOODS. THANKS FOR ALL THE GREAT IDEAS. IT IS GREAT TO FIND PEOPLE THAT ARE TRYING TO BE HEALTHY AND ARE NOT SLAVES TO PROCESSED FAST FOOD.
    THANKS
    DAWN
    SNACKINGOUTSIDETHEBOX.COM

    Reply
  40. Wow, Sarah, I am always amazed by such strong reactions to food, or opinions on it. I look at a lot of blogs, see all kinds of things touted as “healthy” (soy, canola, low-fat, vegan, etc.) but would never take such a tone as some of your commenters have in responding. It was pretty clear you were simply expressing why YOU have chosen not to follow certain things in your diet and what you follow instead. I follow your blog and appreciate your articles very much, but do not expect any one blog/person/researcher/nutritionist to have all the answers. Everyone has the responsibility to research for themselves and not just blindly follow ANYONE.

    My family has done very well on The Maker’s Diet, treating it as a guide for our food choices, but not law. It was instrumental in leading me to Sally Fallon’s NT and Dr. Mercola, which have also been excellent resources. Simply put, it works for us. Unless I’m missed something, that is what I thought you were saying in the article — what works for you. Thanks for sharing.
    Judy@Savoring Today\’s last post: Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      People get really touchy about food. I’m still going to speak my mind though. I’m not deterred in the slightest. No worries there :)

      I think most of the negative comments seem to be knee jerk comments from those who didn’t read the entire post. The ones commenting that “grain free has saved my life” type stuff are the ones who needed to go grain free for health reasons (either weight/hormone issues, gut problems whatever). I never said eat grains in those situations. I said if one is healthy, a balanced diet which includes some properly prepared grains is optimal.

      I’m used to folks not reading the whole post though and getting all bent out of shape. Whatever.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Eating Lowfat Yogurt While Pregnant a Danger to Baby

      Reply
  41. Sarah, thanks for this site and for, what I believe, is your sound advice. I’ve read books by Gary Taubes, Drs. Eades, and often follow the sites of Dr. Eenfeldt (dietdoctor.com), as well as the Ancestral Health Foundation (ancestryfoundation.org/). It is an evolution of ideas, much of which is finally based on real science. I know from personal experience that these changes in our diets are taking us down the right track. Getting people off the fat-phobia idea and away from processed food is huge. But what needs to be added to that advice in my opinion (and this seems to be mostly ignored by all these writers) is the WAPF advice on our need to consume lacto-fermented foods/beverages and properly prepared grains/seeds/nuts/legumes. When we left the old world we forgot that we need to soak key parts of our food. This isn’t hard to do – just soak something while you sleep, or spend a few hours making real sauerkraut that will last for months. Digestion issues and the auto-immune diseases and other serious health problems that go with that can be solved or at least greatly helped by regularly introducing natural lactic acid bacteria to our guts. Most of North America is deficient in magnesium, just one key to good health. Eating moderate amounts of soaked grains (ideally heritage grain) addresses that and allows so many other nutrients to be absorbed. Eliminating processed foods and eating real, local, grassfed meat and organic veggies/berries is undoubtedly important – but to me that’s just part of the picture. What you contribute to solving the puzzle of our poor health, Sarah, as a Chapter Leader of WAPF, is GOLD! Thank you, again, from a Canadian member of WAPF.

    Reply
  42. Heather Bain Brandt via Facebook November 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    We are grain-free & gluten free but I wouldn’t call us paleo. I have no prob. using their blogs as resources for recipes. My son is doing better now that he is grain free & my hopes are that we can reintroduce gluten-free grains some day. What resource do you recommend for learning how to properly prepare grains when we do reintroduce them (they’ll be gluten free).

    Reply
  43. People,

    One thing that MOST of you are not taking into account with your responses is that Sarah is referring to the OPTIMAL diet for GROWING healthy CHILDREN!

    I had to lay off grains for almost 3 years, and this worked wonderfully for me, mind over matter style…. until I was pregnant. Since I’m nursing it is not possible for me to ignore my craving for breads and fats. I’ve had to learn how to bake, and soak my grains so that my psoriasis doesn’t come back, and so far I’m doing quite well.

    Our creator gave us instincts for a reason…. to choose what we need to eat to survive and build healthy babies. Sometimes you need to do a Blood Type/GAPS/Candida cleansing diet to heal, but you’ve already built your body, for better or for worse.

    As adults, you aren’t growing organs and cells FOR THE FIRST TIME. Most of you (like myself) are trying to heal broken bodies from following some version of the SAD diet for many years, or trying to repair the damage done to our children, before we knew any better….

    That said, Weston Price, travelled for 10 years around the globe and gleaned the information from HUNDREDS of tribes, with THOUSANDS of years of collective experience, at a time in history when they were untouched by modernization, (and advertising).

    The knowledge of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration didn’t belong to Dr Price. He was a scribe, who hunted it out, wrote it down and used his scientific background as an authority to explain some of why it worked to us so we can grow healthy bodies and healthy children too. It’s info handed to him from people who have been growing hardy generations for THOUSANDS of years.

    Paleo or Primal authors to not have ANY generations of healthy disease free bodies as proof of the efficacy. And like several of you have said, the fact that it keeps needing adjusting says that it was not complete.

    How any 5-200 people born in this current lifetime could compete with that body of knowledge is beyond me. Most of all that is right with Primal/Paleo/ can be found in Dr. Price’s book.

    Dr. Price’s info was that you can grow healthy bodies on MANY combinations of foods. Proof was in the bodies of the natives that he met, and the hundreds of generations of skeletons he examined. Some ate grains, and others did not, and either way they had results of immunity so similar that *as long as you have the essentials*… IT DOES NOT MATTER if you eat them or not! I don’t know about you but to go from 20-50% cavities and 1-5% cavities is good enough for me.

    If you are descended from the Masai and that tribe represents your heritage of what to eat go for it! I for one am probably NOT going to drink blood or eat bugs or burn salt marsh grass to get the nutrition that some of those tribes did. One thing all the tribes did was make due with what they had. They also hunted wild game. I’m also not likely to do that. Grains are here. They are available. If properly prepared I can tolerate them now. So why not?

    With my health history as my experience, I find it hard to believe that if you can’t digest grains, you don’t have a gut imbalance. I sure as heck had one and did fine off grains for years until my son. I had a craving for banana pancakes so bad when I was pregnant, trying to continue with the BTD for Type O (grain and white potato free) I cried until I ate them, then I cried when I didn’t have a reaction… like my son was the gift to let me know I was healed.

    Our creator did not make us for any food to make us sick. A few years grain free (and a baby) might fix that. Worked for me.

    Reply
  44. An interesting note from my own upbringing that this debate brings up. I grow up in Iowa and we had three groups of food: Fresh meat from the local farmer, fresh local veggies when you could get them and potatoes. My parents were never into health. They simply ate what their parents ate I guess. We never really ate organic either, we laughed at people who did. We had very limited grains in our diets and junk food was simply allowed in the house. We were allowed to have pop once a week on Fridays.

    Interesting results: I literally have perfect teeth, I mean perfectly white and straight. I am not obsessive about my teeth cleaning by any means, as a child the dentist couldn’t believe how healthy our teeth were. I had half a cavity when I was 15 for the first time ever. My cavity healed on its own. The other noted difference between me and my peers was that I was literally never sick! I had perfect attendance though high school. middle school and grade school because I was simply never sick outside of a cold once a year. We didn’t make homemade soup stocks either.

    Downside regarding meat: I always noticed that I had horrible body odor, beyond normal. I would shower 2x a day and still have to put on layers and layers of deodorant. I know now that smelling or having OB is a sign of not so good health or toxic chemical overload. I couldn’t wear a t-shirt without a jacket for fear of pit stains being seen. When I stopped eating meat for almost four years, my OB slowly and totally left me.

    18-Now
    When I moved out on my own, I began to live off of sugar and processed junk for about 2 years. I met my husband and he began to slow change my ways over to sugar free. I began to notice some digestive issues with grains after a three day fast I did. I was fine until I had my three day fast. I began to slowly limit my grains over the course of a year. We weren’t eating super healthy at this time but no fried foods or anything in that nature. I noticed the more I limited the grains the more intense my reaction to them became. I was off of meat due to budget reasons/we were out of the habit of eating it. I felt so much better off of meat for that period but didn’t call myself a vegetarian. AND AND I was so happy, no more smell!!

    I am now having my issue with grains but over time, I know things will improve.

    What I have learned: No extreme is a good extreme! I think sometimes in order to really balance our system out we have to completely stop something, let ourselves heal, detox or do whatever it needs to do and slowly add it back in over time. I believe in eating grains, I think I just need some time away from it like I did with meat.

    Reply
  45. Great post Sarah. I know you’re getting a lot of skin rash from your post, but for those who follow neither primal or paleo, it helps understand the differences between the two.

    Reply
  46. Wow, lots of comments on this one, Sarah; and a great article! I, for one, will always feel most comfortable with the advice of Dr. Price. Native cultures proved their case through generations of evidence: amazingly healthy folks. Dr. Price’s observation helps us, even to this day.
    Too many trendy new diets try fooling with what traditional cultures already knew. I’ll stick with the original advice for the optimal health of my family.
    Not to mention, including grains is just so much tastier, and taking that away from my kids seems too overbearing….and a lot less fun.
    Thanks, Sarah!
    Nourishing Nancy\’s last post: Letter to Dalton McGuinty: Michael Schmidt

    Reply
  47. Sarah, I understand you’re saying that grains provide something necessary for optimal health, something that can’t be found in any vegetables, fruit, meat or fish. Please can you share what that is?

    Reply
    • Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist

      I think you can get everything in grains in other foods. This isn’t the point. The point is that eating mostly animal foods and tending toward extreme eating either toward the carnivorous or vegetarian sides is imbalanced and Dr. Price observed that those that ate a more balanced and mixed diet such as the Dinkas were stronger and had better proportioned physiques than the groups that ate extreme.

      Why does everything have to be “named” all the time? Can’t just observing that a particular behavior of eating yields better results be enough? It’s enough for me.
      Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist\’s last post: Bitters: Invaluable Aid to Fat Digestion

      Reply
  48. As for me, I will be perfectly content if my kids grow up *only* as healthy as the Masai! ;)

    I’m in favor of experimenting and seeing what works for you and your kids. A blogger I know cut grains out of her toddler’s diet (they previously ate only soaked and sprouted grains) and he started sleeping through the night! And my son has been having diarrhea for the past month … perhaps he just wasn’t ready for grains yet. (Contrary to what you say, I believe amylase production matures about the time the last molars erupt — between 18 and 24 months.) Initial experiments of cutting out grains for short periods have been helping, but the diarrhea returns when we add them back in. I think grain-free is just necessary for him right now.

    In the end, I think our family will be best gluten-free at least. We are Irish in descent, and the Irish are predisposed to celiac. Wheat was never one of our traditional foods … oats grew much better in the Irish climate. But I’m not really convinced gluten is doing anyone any good. Seems everyone I know who tries cutting it out feels better … even if they felt fine before.
    Sheila\’s last post: Midwife success!

    Reply
      • Well, how about the Eskimos then? There certainly have been plenty of healthy, grain-free cultures!

        A P.S. on my son’s issues — we’ve been gluten-free for a week and yesterday went entirely grain-free to see what would happen. What happened is he slept through the night for the first time in two months! His diarrhea has been gone since we eliminated gluten, as are his skin issues. He’s been in such a good mood it’s hard for me to tell when to put him down for a nap — I used to wait for the inevitable “naptime tantrum” and then put him down! You can say what you want about “optimal diets,” but I feel certain that at least gluten-free, and probably grain-free, is the optimal diet for MY son, at least for now. The results are unmistakable.
        Sheila\’s last post: A bit about pelvic girdle pain

        Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
          Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist November 17, 2011 at 9:16 am

          I never said eating grain free was unhealthy!!!!!!! I said that it was optimal to eat a more balanced and less extreme diet as discovered by Dr. Price.

          Reply
  49. I honestly believe the sugar and grains in your way of eating are so much more detrimental to children health, and health in all people. I’ve always pointed people to this site but now I’m not comfortable doing so.

    Reply
  50. The point is that eating mostly animal foods and tending toward extreme eating either toward the carnivorous or vegetarian sides is imbalanced and Dr. Price observed that those that ate a more balanced and mixed diet such as the Dinkas were stronger and had better proportioned physiques than the groups that ate extreme.

    Why does everything have to be “named” all the time? Can’t just observing that a particular behavior of eating yields better results be enough? It’s enough for me.

    Sure… it’s enough for me, too. I don’t see any point in venturing to whacky extremes (nothing but beef and water/ nothing but raw fruit), either, though it is extraordinary how people still manage to survive for extended periods at these extremes.

    But I find it odd to imply that a diet of vegetables, meat and fish is ‘extreme’. When I went Primal, I took the grains out of my diet and replaced them with vegetables. You’re suggesting I’d do better to remove some vegetables and replace them with grains.

    Well… for me to give up one mouthful of my purple kale or bright orange squash or sprouting broccoli or fresh carrots or roast parsnip or watercress or mizuna (etc, etc…), there’d have to be something pretty amazing about wheat, rice and oats. I don’t mind if it’s illustrated by an epidemiological study, a controlled trial or field studies of traditional diets – or even just some nutrient analysis that makes it seem likely – I’d need some big piece of evidence that adding grains to a diet of vegetables, meat and fish makes people healthier.

    Anything?

    Reply
  51. I’m a primal girl, but yes, I believe that Dr. Cordain has significantly softened his stance on low fat in recent years. Sometimes if I go out and there’s literally nothing else to eat I will have white rice. Have you read Mark Sisson’s blog post “not all grains were created equal”? its quite interesting. I also bake with tapioca flour occasionally. But no potatoes for me, those things aren’t too healthy.
    Jess\’s last post: Raw Milk

    Reply
  52. I cannot afford to cut out grains completely nor can I get my family to only eat dairy, meat and healthy fats. But I do not think it is healthy to do a lot of grains with a lot of animal fats. I soak, sprout, dehydrate and grind into flour buckwheat groats. Then I ferment the flour overnight to make it as easy to digest as possible. I sprout brown rice. Those are the two grains we eat most. Again, I think a high carb high animal fat is dangerous for the body.

    Reply
  53. I am adamantly not paleo, but do consider myself primal. Though I started out with the whole “Nourishing Traditions.” What I discovered is that properly soaked/fermented grains and legumes do not digest well for me. Which is obviously different for others. I do drink raw milk, yogurt and kefir though. This is what has worked for me. I don’t think the nourishing/primal lifestyles are inherently wrong for one reason or another. They are very similar, but people should probably experiment and figure out which works for them.
    dani\’s last post: meatza and almond flour biscuit

    Reply
    • Hi Jacqi,

      Based on this post Sources list, this info was based on the first edition of The Paleo Diet. Later editions change the canola oil recommendation and the recent Paleo Answer book has some info on saturated fat from animal is okay, although if I recall correctly dairy saturated fat from butter/cream was still not recommended.

      Good discussion.

      Thanks,
      Mark

      Reply
  54. My problem with this blog post, Sarah, is that you obviously have a pretty large following of people who respect what you write, which makes you somewhat of an “expert,” whether you call yourself one or not. So writing a post describing Paleo and Primal the way you did gives many people who respect you, the wrong idea about those “diets.” I eat mostly paleo and love Mark Sisson’s blog. I would never, ever describe Paleo or Primal in the way you did. There is so much more to it. It’s about listening to your body and giving yourself the chance to get off of grains, since most people have never tried that before. It’s doing research to discover what is the best for your body. And the argument that because the diet has evolved, you shouldn’t listen to those experts, is absolute nonsense. There is not one theory in life that hasn’t evolved in some way. Humans are constantly learning new and improved ways of doing things. Just because the original theory isn’t exact, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. This is what I love about Paleo: Most people start it because they want to change something. You get rid of grains, legumes, dairy, processed food and sugar for 3 to 4 weeks, then add something back in to see how it makes you feel. If it makes no difference, then add it back in regularly! If it makes you gassy and bloated, consider leaving it out!
    Please, as an expert, if you are going to put down a way of eating, do a little more research first. I know you are saying that this is just your opinion, but then you went on to define paleo and primal based on some very limited information and no other sources. Your very first sentence: “The Paleo Diet as written by Loren Cordain can be quickly dismissed as unhealthy because it makes a number of wild claims that are completely unsupported through close examination of Traditional Societies as studied and documented by Dr. Weston A. Price in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” That is where, I think people are feeling like you are putting down a pretty awesome way of eating for some people.

    Reply
    • Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf are very open to discussion and different points of view. Considering most human history is unrecorded and was spent hunting and gathering…not planting and growing grains… seems to be lost on Sarah. Discovering how to grow, harvest, and prepare grains is the only reason there are so many humans on the planet today. Rice, beans, potatoes are a staple in nearly every cultures diet. Does that mean it is necessarily best for you? I wouldn’t go that far. You can slam the crossfit crowd all you want. Let’s see you hit the gym and compete with that crowd on your diet.
      …. all debate aside. If you want to be healthy. Hang out with people who want to be healthy. Most likely you will mind up very healthy. That is by far the most important thing you can do. I think Sarah is way too critical and narrow minded in her opinions. Nobody has complete knowledge of this Earth and this life except maybe our political class..lol… but if your heart is in the right place and you but your energy into it you will find better health.

      Reply
  55. Hi Sarah.

    There are a lot of comments so maybe I missed your comment on this.

    Your reasons for eating grains “properly prepared” grains seems to rest on two reasons; The need for magnesium and because of someone’s passive observations of a tribe in Africa.

    First, there are many other natural sources of magnesium other than grains. Seeds, spinach and beets to name a few.

    Second, the premise that simply observing the physical characteristics of a small tribe in Africa that happens to eat a small amount of grains means that small amounts of grains are healthy, with all due respect, is absurd.

    If anything, the many observations of Dr. Price lie more closely in line with the Paelo/Primal eating movement than do not. Low to no sugar/carbs and good saturated fats.

    In exchange for some small amount of magnesium you completely discount all of the other modern research into the inflammatory damage caused by grains. The chemical, biological, and hormonal damage when grains are ingested certainly must be taken into account.

    Obviously there are a multitude of processes that take place in the body when eating various foods and the dynamic relationship that exists when foods are eaten together. One must look at a multitude of research data to weigh the positive and negative effects of various foods and their effect on the body.

    Again, I’m sorry if I missed it and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t see any nutritional reason other than magnesium for ingesting “properly prepared” grains.

    Reply
  56. There is a lot of info on paleo out there generally speaking i like a lot of the concepts i do eat wheat but limit it to 2 a week with grains i don’t do dairy as i am lactose intolerant :) it works for me and that is good enough.

    Reply
  57. I don’t have have a problem with eating some properly prepared grains now and then, but the hassle to do it or buy them just out weighs the convenience of avoiding them completely…. my 2cents.

    Reply
  58. I realize that your post predates what I’m sharing, but Sally Fallon gave a talk last year called Nourishing Traditional Diets where she discusses (I believe) the African tribes you mention in your post (at the 39:50 marker)– She states that Dr. Price compared three groups of people eating their traditional diets.

    * One that ate only animal foods

    * One of hunter gatherers (few or no grains, legumes & dairy) but plenty of gathered plant food, and

    * One of agriculturalists (growing corn, beans and squash and eating insects).

    He found NO dental deformities or cavities in the first two and about 6% decay in the agriculturalists who also tended to “be shorter, a little overweight and not as robust”. The HG group was “not as tall but they were much stronger and had better proportions” than the animal-foods-only group.

    It seems to me that even Dr. Price recognized the hunter-gatherer diet as the one that produced the best outcome in the people.

    Reply
  59. Pingback: The Way We Eat – Part Three | Fitness by PackingHeat

  60. Pingback: Rethinking My Approach | Journey To Be A Gentleman by Robert Holland

  61. Given both how old this post is and your apparent refusal to address per previously asked questions, I don’t expect you to answer my comment, but I have a question I’m going to ask anyway. And since you’ve glossed over the specific questions in previous comments you’ve made wherein you give vague non-answers, I’ll spell it out for you:

    Several people have pointed out that you repeatedly insist that young children miss out on nutrition if they are not given moderate amounts of “properly prepared” grains, without bothering to explain this. You acknowledge instances where such a totally grain-free diet is okay (celiac), but you keep saying that if there’s no digestive/health reason to do so, that children miss out on something if they don’t eat at least some amount of, again, “properly prepared” grain.

    The problem is, you refuse to say what exactly it is that grains provide that is so crucial and essential. You DO admit in a comment that there is nothing in grains that cannot be found in other foods, which is precisely why people don’t understand your insistence that grains are essential if there is no health reason to exclude them. If all the nutrients and minerals and whatever else grains contain–including magnesium, which is, notably, the ONLY thing you’ve specifically named–are available in other foods, then WHY, precisely, is excluding grain from a young child’s diet such a problem? Spell it out, please, since you keep making the assertion.

    FYI, pointing to sickly children whose diets 100% exclude grain and insisting that the lack of grain is de facto the reason they are not thriving is extremely fallacious. Unless you can prove that ALL young children whose diets completely exclude grain are thus not thriving, your claim is baseless, especially if you do not look for other possible causes.

    Finally, while you have at least responded to (some) of the comment questions asking about your thing about young children and grains (even though you haven’t once bothered to actually answer the question), you haven’t even acknowledged the question as to why you don’t seem to see the logical disconnect in your assertion that grains are not to be eaten while a person is healing from digestive issues, or just generally recovering from sickness. It surprises me that you cannot see how the discrepancy here. What’s wrong with grains that you advocate NOT eating them during digestive issues or illness? Seriously, you cannot see why it seems strange to people?

    Reply
    • Excellent comment. I too would like answers to these questions and feel that if you have the time to compose the blog posts, you should also be willing to take the time to address the questions and challenges it raises.

      Reply
    • I agree 100%. Probably worst of all, this is the first post I’ve read from this blog and it is equivalent to empty calories. No real information, no links to research, select (and incomplete, therefore inaccurate) paraphrasing, and no substantive followup to the many criticisms and reasonable questioning of the statements in the post. This indicates to me an unacceptable level of irresponsibility in the dissemination of information to your readers and results an unfortunate degree of untrustworthiness among anyone reading with a shred of critical thinking abilities. You criticize others for making errors in their assertions but completely ignore your own. In the span of 10 minutes you both gained and lost a reader. (And I’m not even “paleo”)

      Reply
  62. It’s really hard to get through an article when you use Loren Cordain as your main source. In fact, after that, I didn’t even try, since it’s clear you didn’t do any research.

    Reply
  63. I know I’m late on this bandwagon, but I wanted to throw out another book title that I think is an important read for anyone interested in nutritional science:
    The Perfect Health Diet, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet.
    http://perfecthealthdiet.com/
    I am a strong skeptic, a research junkie, and a mother of two. This is hands down the best book I have read on nutrition.

    Reply
  64. Pingback: Liver is Packed Full of Nutrients | Outdoor Nutrition®

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

Login to your account

Can't remember your Password ?

Register for this site!