My Beef (hardy har har) With The Primal/Paleo Crowd

I think Primal/Paleo is a really healthy way to eat, and far, FAR better than the Standard American Diet. I don’t think my diet is superior to the Primal/Paleo diet, and I fully respect anyone who wishes to improve their health by adopting a Primal/Paleo way of eating. I think most people will see a dramatic improvement in their health by going Primal/Paleo. In fact, almost everything I eat (save the legumes) would be right at home in a Primal/Paleo kitchen, and I am quite certain that I wouldn’t go hungry at a Primal/Paleo dinner party.

I read a lot of Primal/Paleo blogs and here are some of the things I’ve read recently:

-a plant based diet will result in high triglycerides

(mine were 33 last time they were checked)

-a plant based diet will result in low HDL

(mine was 68 at last check)

-a plant based diet will lead to accumulation of body fat

(mine is 12.5%. I hate to be all arrogant about that, but that’s lower than any paleo woman I know personally. In fact, it’s lower than most paleo MEN I know personally))

-a plant based diet will prevent gains in lean body mass

(I’ve got about 140 pounds of lean body mass, that’s as much as a fit MAN my height and weight)

-a plant based diet will limit strength gains

(this MAY be true? but I’m pretty damn strong. Sure, I could be stronger. But I’m pretty damn strong for a 40 year old soccer mom with a arthritis, a day job, and a social life)

-phytates in legumes cause mineral deficiencies

(my mineral levels are so pretty you’d cry)

-lectins in legumes cause leaky gut and poor digestion

(well, first of all I’m not convinced leaky gut exists, but more importantly, my digestion and elimination are, by the standards I see in paleo blogs, perfect)

-vegans are emaciated


-vegans claim mucus in stool are worms


Basically, NONE of the things I hear the Primal/Paleo crowd claim are the dangers of a plant based diet hold true for me, and I’ve been eating this way for 3 years. In fact, the longer I eat this way, the further away from their vegan stereotype I get. I get stronger and leaner, my triglycerides get lower and my HDL higher. When I mention this, I invariably get an answer along the lines of “well, you’re obviously a genetic anomaly”. If I were a genetic anomaly, why would my body have responded to the Standard American Diet and sedentary lifestyle the way everyone else’s body does: obesity and metabolic syndrome? There’s nothing extraordinary or anomalous about me. I’m quite average, I assure you.

So what I’m left with is: why do they feel the need to make shit up about plant based diets to get people to believe in their philosophy? Their philosophy is sound, why undermine their own credibility with, well, made up shit? All those things I listed above are true of crappy diets, not plant based diets.

Primal/Paleo people: more power to you. I respect your dietary choices. I don’t go around making shit up about your diet. I believe you are healthy, and your diet is health promoting.

Stop making shit up about mine, and maybe you’ll find out we can accomplish more together. Promoting a healthier lifestyle is our common goal, no? Maybe?

15 thoughts on “My Beef (hardy har har) With The Primal/Paleo Crowd

  1. Can you point us to who has made the claims you're listing above? That would be helpful. I wonder if they are educators on the topic or simply those who follow the diet and choose to think they're helping to educate others by making such claims. I don't personally think I'd ever say ANY of those things about a plant-based diet, though I would about SAD, high-refined food or possibly high-grain diet… though I'd never say one diet causes anything. Cause and effect in dietary impact are EXTREMELY hard to prove. Thanks for sharing this, it helps to bring light to what some people may SAY, though they are not fully or best equipped to be educating others on their way of eating, even if they personally find good health in doing so.


    • “Can you point us to who has made the claims you’re listing above?”


  2. I don't think you come off as arrogant about the body fat. But I think you do have every right to be as arrogant as you like about it 😀

    Loving the pun in the title.

  3. Pretty much totally agree on everything except the leaky gut. IMO it plays a huge role in many of the common Western diseases. That said, whole legumes and grains (especially traditionally prepared) aren't the problem. However, they may be a problem for people who already have problems from eating industrial foods.

  4. Without much digging at all, 5 of the last 6 of your bullet points can probably be found in Robb Wolf's AHS speech.

  5. Thanks for the reasoned response, Diane. I'd like to say it's only random bloggers, but I've heard some pretty big names in the Paleo/Primal world make some pretty baseless claims. I won't name names, because I'm not looking for a fight. Quite the opposite in fact. As a friend of mine says, those of us who reject the Standard American Diet need to stick together.

    Grok, this is pretty much where I stand on leaky gut:

    I'm not rejecting it out of hand, but I need to see a lot more good hard science before I'm willing to embrace it as reality. A google search turns up hundreds of alternative health websites hawking leaky gut remedies, a few quackwatch type sites poking fun at the theory, and no published, peer reviewed studies.

    Show me the science and we can talk.

  6. Charlotte of the Great Fitness Experiment got me thinking about this one.

    I honestly don’t believe that there is One Diet to Rule Them All.

    I tried going vegetarian for a good while, and it was *awful* for my body–
    gained weight, was super cranky, tired, just BLEAH.

    I operate best with whole grains, natural fats (and a LOT of them), tons of fruit, occasional meat, occasional dairy (cheese & yogurt), and veggies here and there.

    I think there is a lot of value in trying different eating styles until you find the one that makes your body happiest–whatever that may be.

    • Agreed, Rebecca! Part of my mission here really is to encourage people to explore and experiment and not marry themselves to one dietary philosophy.

  7. So wonderful to find someone who believes this kind of eating is ok. It really bothers me to even think of eating meat.

  8. Hi – Thanks for a reasoned piece. I have spent the last 18 months trying to figure out how to heal my myriad digestive issues, inflammatory bowel disease and, I believe, leaky gut syndrome. I used to eat whole grains with abandon and then, when my digestive problems began (the result of a very serious illness, not a bad diet) I could no longer eat them without severe pain and bloating. My point here is not to diss any diet, but to say that there is NO ONE PERFECT DIET. It depends upon the individual and even on where the individual is in his/her life. It would be so much better if others were like you, respectful and interested only in promoting good health. Kudos! Oh and your body fat percentage is amazing! Brag all you want, I would!!

  9. So, I just threw in the search terms “plant based diet high triglycerides”, “plant based diet low HDL” and “plant based diet body fat” into google and got not one single search result from the paleo crowd (or anyone) making these claims. Now who’s making shit up?

  10. In the essence of saving time, there will always be people who try to disprove with the majority believes and there will always be people who never believe anything until there is a health crisis. That’s just human nature. In the end vegan, paleo, primal, and any other diet comes down to individual characteristics and what you prefer. When you make the decision to undertake any way of eating, its the “indie” that has to ultimately deal with the consequences.

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