Hey, Wild Things!
Everyone is talking about the paleo diet these days, hey?
A big part of the argument for this low-carb, high-protein diet has to do with insulin. Carbohydrates, the reasoning goes, increase insulin, which is one of the worst things for our health.
Well…they got one thing right, I guess. Insulin spikes can be really dangerous to our health! But they’re dead wrong if they think sticking to animal proteins like meat and fish is going to cut it down.
You see, carbs may cause our insulin to rise, but so does protein.
A 1997 index lists 38 foods according to their impact on insulin levels; between a big, juicy-sweet apple, some plain pasta, and a fat burger-without-the-bun, guess which causes the biggest insulin spike…
If you guessed the meat, then you’re correct!
More recent data shows that beef, chicken and pork all have equally high effects on insulin levels. Meat is actually just as harmful as straight sugar in that capacity.
The paleo people are right: conditions like hyperinsulinemia (excessively high insulin in the blood, as in type 2 diabetics) are bad for us, and could lead to a slightly higher risk of cancer. However, if the paleo diet really is about reducing insulin, then there is no place for animal proteins in that diet! Overall, meat-eaters have 50% higher insulin than any vegetarian.
A healthy vegan diet has been proven to drop insulin levels in test subjects across the board—in less than three weeks. Adding egg whites (a supposedly healthy animal protein) into their diet, on the other hand, boosts those levels right back up (as much as 60%) within just a few days.
Add lots of whole, plant-based carbs to people’s diet? Insulin will drop. Restrict carbs drastically (as low-carb advocates will always advise)? No meaningful drop in insulin levels, but cholesterol rises.
Yep, low-carb diets may not be good for our hearts after all…I guess Dr. Atkins didn’t know everything, hey?
Don’t get me wrong, the paleo diet gets some things right. Cutting dairy and processed foods. Cutting refined sugar. But something interesting happened when researchers put a group of young, healthy people on a combined regimen of paleo diet and high-intensity exercise. After ten weeks of these workouts and significant weight loss, their LDL cholesterol levels had gone up. That’s problematic, especially when you consider that the change was most drastic for those who started out healthiest. (Up to a 20% increase in LDL, and a drop in HDL.)
Put another group of healthy people on a plant-based diet and moderate exercise regimen, on the other hand, and their bad cholesterol will drop 20% and their insulin 30% in just three weeks. And we’re talking about an extremely high-carb diet here.
So, I hope all that information will make you think twice about going paleo…and maybe consider plant-based instead! 😉
Want to give plant-based a try, but not sure where to begin? Wild Nutrition: Your 30-Day Revolution to Plant-Based Vitality will give you all the tools, all the resources and all the recipes you need to get the health and body you deserve!