5 Common Paleo Diet Mistakes

paleo diet

Are You Guilty of Making these Paleo Diet Missteps?

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

In my opinion, the Paleo diet is “mostly right”.  Eating whole foods, in their natural state, raised naturally, organic, free range, lots of veggies, moderate fruit and protein, no refined grains or sugar.

  1. Banning all legumes – Chickpeas, beans and lentils provide nutrients, amino acids and fiber. Proponents of avoiding these foods cite their phytic acid and lectin content.  Lectins are almost eliminated by cooking and most legumes are not consumed raw.  Eating raw kidney beans can lead to toxicity, so definitely don’t try this at home. Phytates can be reduced by soaking, sprouting and fermenting legumes. Eaten properly prepared, provided you are able to digest legumes, they provide a planet friendly protein source with lots of fiber.
  2. Promoting too much meat and bacon consumption.  Whether because Paleo advocates have endorsed this, or people just plunk meat in place of all the grains they used to eat, some people when they go Paleo go overboard on meat.  Conservative servings of chicken, fish, eggs at one or two meals per day is plenty.  It is possible to go overboard on protein and create problems with insulin sensitivity.
  3. Added fats.  If consuming a whole food diet, there should be no need to add fat.  Fats found naturally in whole, raw nuts and seeds and grass fed meats should provide adequate fat.  Oils like coconut oil and olive oil are processed and refined and no longer in their natural state.  Too  much fat intake can also cause insulin resistance.
  4. Promoting maple syrup as healthy.  As a proud Canadian, I love my maple syrup as much as anyone, but it is far from natural.  Sap runs in maple trees in the spring, these are tapped for sap which is clear and watery and very slightly sweet. Sap needs to be heated and concentrated 40 times to produce maple syrup.  Sap is natural, maple syrup is not any healthier than any other concentrated sugar. The glycemic index of maple syrup (54) falls just under the glycemic index of high fructose corn syrup (58). A PubMed search for maple syrup health benefits in humans yields nada, zip, zilch, nothing.
  5. Eating Paleo treats every day.  Paleo treats are just that, “treats”.  Something consumed once in a while as a special indulgence.  Not a standin for a daily cookie habit.   Most Paleo treats contain some sort of sweetener – dried fruit, honey, maple syrup, bananas etc.  While these are ok to have on special occasions and better than sugar or high fructose corn syrup, they shouldn’t make up part of your daily diet any more than refined sugar should.   The idea is to break the daily sweets habit and get your sugar from a serving of fruit.

My Paleo diet tweaks:

  1. Have some legumes sprouted, cooked, and/or soaked at least occasionally, up to one meal per day.
  2. Substitute treats, Paleo or conventional, with whole, fresh, organic seasonal fruit.
  3. Relish the natural sweetness of a piece of fruit and move away from “sweeteners”.
  4. Eat whole foods that contain fat rather than adding refined fats, such as eggs, whole milk, avocados, nuts and seeds, and naturally raised, grass fed meat.
  5. Eat no more than a moderate serving of grass fed meat protein (not processed meat) once per day.  Other meals would contain protein from nuts, seeds, legumes, and eggs.

By Dr Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), Naturopath

Paleo Diet References:

  1. Kouris-Blazos A, Belski R. Health benefits of legumes and pulses with a focus on Australian sweet lupins. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;25(1):1-17. doi: 10.6133/apjcn.2016.25.1.23.
  2. Vasconcelos IM, Oliveira JT. Antinutritional properties of plant lectins. Toxicon. 2004 Sep 15;44(4):385-403.
  3. Schlemmer U, Frølich W, Prieto RM, Grases F. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2009 Sep;53 Suppl 2:S330-75. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200900099.
  4. Valencia S, Svanberg U, Sandberg AS, Ruales J. Processing of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Willd): effects on in vitro iron availability and phytate hydrolysis.Int J Food Sci Nutr. 1999 May;50(3):203-11.
  5. Noah ND, Bender AE, Reaidi GB, Gilbert RJ. Food poisoning from raw red kidney beans. Br Med J. 1980 Jul 19;281(6234):236-7.
  6. Asrih M, Altirriba J, Rohner-Jeanrenaud F, Jornayvaz FR. Ketogenic Diet Impairs FGF21 Signaling and Promotes Differential Inflammatory Responses in the Liver and White Adipose Tissue. PLoS One. 2015 May 14;10(5):e0126364. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0126364. eCollection 2015.
  7. Hashemipour S, Esmailzadehha N, Mohammadzadeh M, Ziaee A. Association of meat and dairy consumption with normal weight metabolic obesity in men: the Qazvin Metabolic Diseases Study.
    Eat Weight Disord. 2016 Jan 4.