Myths about the Paleo diet

My Edited Eating newspaper column, in which I explore aspects of the Paleo lifestyle, weightloss and getting fit and healthy, appears in the Sunday edition of Weekend Argus. This one explores some myths about the Paleo diet…

Among some of the unique characters I met at this year’s Paleo f(x) in Austin, Texas was a guy called Sloan who attended every day of the convention dressed like Fred Flintstone. I suppose the aim was to look like a caveman, whose lifestyle Paleo is based on.

So, this got me thinking about all of the myths about Paleo that I’ve been exposed to since I first started following the principles of this lifestyle. Here are the five most common ones I’ve encountered.


  1. You have to live like a caveman

While the Paleo way of eating is based on how and what our prehistoric ancestors ate, if you follow a Paleo lifestyle, you’re certainly not expected to live just like a caveman. Instead, we learn from their eating, sleeping and movement patterns and adapt them to fit into our modern lifestyles. They ate whole, natural foods available in nature. They were in touch with their circadian rhythms, sleeping when it was dark, and rising with the sun. Their movement was functional – they ran when they were chasing or being chased, they lifted heavy things and walked when they needed to get somewhere.


  1. Paleo is just another “low-carb” diet

“The average carbohydrate intake of hunter gatherers ranged from 30 to 40% of total calories.  This is not a low-carb diet! It’s a moderate carb diet, and … virtually all of the research that has shown benefits for the Paleo diet involved a Paleo diet with this carbohydrate range,” writes Chris Kresser, a leader in the field of ancestral health and Paleo nutrition. This is also one of the areas where Paleo differs from Banting, the Ketogenic diet and other very low carb (VLC) eating plans.


  1. You’ll eat too much meat – and that’s not good for you

The principles of Paleo advocate the moderate consumption of fruit and a healthy dose of vegetables with each meal, in addition to a small serving of protein, in the form of meat, fish, chicken or eggs. Paleo does not promote a meat-only diet.


  1. Paleo is expensive

Yes, it can be – but it doesn’t have to be. A challenge very close to my heart, is that of making the Paleo lifestyle accessible and affordable, particularly in poorer communities. If you’re doing Paleo on a budget, focus on filling your trolley with fruit, vegetables and a range of protein sources, including eggs. Organ meats are highly nutritious and often cheaper than other parts of the animal. Because pre-packaged grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free foods are an exception rather than the norm, they are more expensive. So if you’re working with a tight budget, avoid them. You can live without the treats. Organic foods and meat and butter from pasture-raised animals are best, but if you cannot afford these, simply opt for the next best thing.


  1. If I don’t have dairy, I’ll become calcium-deficient

Explaining the importance of calcium, Dr Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist and doctor of natural medicine, writes that “foods that provide calcium support functions including bone building, nerve conduction, heartbeat regulation, muscle contractions and weight maintenance.” Many people – and I once counted myself among them – believe that if you’re not drinking milk or eating yoghurt and cheese, you’re going to become calcium deficient. Not so. Paleo-friendly foods which are rich in calcium, include sardines, kale, broccoli and almonds, among others.

Chantel Erfort

I'm a yoga teacher and health advocate who runs and enjoys the outdoors. Having previously lived a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle, nothing makes me happier than being able to share the benefits of including some movement, mindfulness and healthy eating into one's life.