Sunday morning I surveyed my run club members for their thoughts on the paleo approach. Consensus was that there were too many rules. And let me tell you, this is a group that doesn't shy away from sampling diet/lifestyle changes. In the past we have weighted the pros and cons of other approaches including the blood type 'diet', alkalinity eating and Brendan Brazier's thrive diet. I am the only Vegan in the group so for my meat eating friends to think paleo is restrictive was eye opening.
The most troubling part of paleo is the exclusion of beans and legumes which are considered antinutrients due to the high phytic acid, lectin and tannin content (for the record, tea is also high in tannins).
I found this intriguing so I began to do some research on beans - the staple of most vegan diets. This article by Dr Clyde Wilson argues that beans are only harmful when eaten raw. The beans we consume are always cooked, canned or sprouted. As Dr. Wilson suggests"
Cooking beans for 15 min at 100 C or 2 hrs at 80 C completely denatures lectins, and canning beans is just as effective, meaning cooked and canned legumes are not only completely safe but their residual lectin levels fight cancer and fungal / bacterial / viral infection.
Where's the protein?
If you were to omit beans, No Meat Athlete lists the following paleo approved vegetarian protein sources:
- Eggs (not for me)
- Hemp Seed
- Potatoes (technically, only sweet potatoes are allowed)
*note: I believe that all nuts should also be soaked before eating
I have been able to find a few examples of people who were successful on this approach. Vegan, Paleo Crossfit huh? did a great job of tracking her food intake for 30 days, making it look almost easy. A sample day looked something like this:
Breakfast Smoothie: mango, banana, orange, spinach, hemp protein, flax seed, maca powder & almond-hazelnut butter
Lunch Salad: mixed greens, sunflower seeds, walnuts, avocado, tomatoes & EFA oil & vinegar
Snacks: handful of nuts; carrot sticks
Dinner: Stir fry veggies cooked in an almond butter, lime juice, coconut aminos, cumin sauce.
I think there are a lot of healthy ideas coming out of the Paleo approach. Increasing vegetable and healthy fat consumption while limiting higher glycemic index fruits is something I already do. I eat very limited amounts of soy as a vegan due to my sensitivity and a noted effect on Baby W when I breastfeed.
I don't however think I could completely eliminate beans and legumes. As a runner and someone who struggles to maintain iron stores, lentils are an important source of iron in my diet. I also eat a lot of oatmeal! I do however think I should mix things up and would be happy to add a smoothie to my breakfast routine unless of course the baby is sleeping... then there is no blending happening : )
All in all, I felt anxious even reading all the food rules and was already starting to look at foods in a good/bad way. This may work for some people, but the idea of restricting certain food groups is not a healthy choice for me. I could see myself doing a 30 day challenge and then going off the rails with nibs and soy lattes!
For now, I will continue to make the healthiest choices I can (while occasionally enjoying both peanut butter and quinoa salad)