Popular Real-Food Diets

"Let thy food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates, father of medicine

Here at Pebbles Pantry, we believe that we many chronic diseases of modern times relate to the food we eat and that we could all be a lot healthier if we ate only real food. Our bodies are impressive; it's estimated that we replace 50 billion cells every day using the raw materials that can be scavenged from the cells they replace, bolstered by the food that we eat. Not only does the food we eat provide the building blocks, but nutrients are also used as "tools" for the process. The human body is incredibly adaptable and resourceful, but you are what you eat, there's just no escaping that.

You could give the world's the greatest construction team cardboard and have them to build you a castle, but your castle would stand the test of time so much better if you offered stone instead of cardboard.

In a world of food engineered by capitalists, in an environment which keeps most of us rushing here, there and everywhere, at a time in which we can no longer rely purely on what nature provides in our back gardens. We have to make careful decisions about what we to eat if we want to avoid modern disease as best we can. At its core, healthy eating is merely eating right by nature and our genetics.

Choices are tough when so many factors swaying your decision, often unconsciously, so it's wise to have a framework to help.

There are a few ancestral eating plans that are becoming more common, They overlap a little so let's separate them.

Paleo

The Paleo Diet consists of specific foods that must be avoided. There is no one list of allowed foods, one group of followers might have minor variations to the next, but there are many commonalities between all groups.

  • No grains or legumes.
  • No vegetable oils.
  • No added sugar.
  • No dairy.

It's important to note that meats and fish consumed should also be fed a natural diet. For example, cattle are not well suited to eating grains or legumes either; in fact, meat from grass-fed animals offers omega-3 fatty acid levels that rival wild salmon, on the flip-side cattle fed grains and legumes do not.

It's also important to eat organic wherever possible; it's worth familiarising yourself with dirty/clean lists which identity which conventionally farmed produce is contaminated with the most chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

Primal

The Primal Diet is essentially the Paleo Diet with the addition of high-quality dairy.

Keto

The Ketogenic Diet isn't a list of allowed and disallowed foods it offers a guideline for macro-nutrition ratios (fat, protein and carbohydrate), aimed at allowing the dieter to "get into ketosis". Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.

Despite opposition from some conventional sources of health information, ketosis is an utterly natural state induced by restriction of calories so that the body may use fat stores to maintain muscle mass.

When only carbohydrates are restricted, and sufficient, nutrient-dense fat and protein sources are consumed you enter a state known as "nutritional ketosis", many believe this state is sustainable long-term. Traditional Inuit cultures were found to live in a constant state of nutritional ketosis; as they had no access to carbohydrates in their diet at all.

Breastfed babies are in ketosis for a considerable portion of the time. All healthy humans are capable of switching quite easily in and out of ketosis; our metabolic condition dictates how quickly and how unpleasant the transition is.

Ketosis fits into our consideration of ancestral diets because at times it was unavoidable for our ancestors during hard times.

It's worth noting though that the modern take on The Keto Diet focuses only on the fat, protein and carbohydrate ratios of a meal plan, not the quality of the food. Ketosis is not mutually exclusive to the other diet plans mentioned here; you'll notice that once you take grains out of our diet, you're 75% of the way towards a ketogenic diet. Additionally, avoiding unseasonal quantities of fruit and root veg and most people can get into ketosis.

If you want to aim for ketosis, it's likely you'll have to reduce to carbs to less than 50g per day and avoid having more than 20g in any one sitting. Depending on your metabolic state, you may need to get down to less than 20g per day; which of course is incredibly restrictive.

It's widely accepted, even in conventional dietary guidelines, that approximately 20% - 25% of your calories should come from protein. It's important not to overeat protein, as through the process of gluconeogenesis your liver can convert protein into carbohydrate.

Most keto-dieters get 70% to 80% of their calories for fat; eating protein and as few carbs as possible.

Whole30

Dallas and Melissa Hartwig founded The Whole30 Diet in 2009. The concept is a spinoff of the paleo diet. Primarily it involves getting through 30-day strictly paleo with the additional condition that no paleo-friendly sugars or baked goods are eaten. Unlike paleo, white potatoes are allowed.

Although challenging, Whole30 is a great way to centre your relationship with food. Reverting to a standard Paleo Diet after 30 days of Whole30 can feel liberating and take the stress out of the restrictions that Paleo / Primal implies.

AIP

AIP stands for "Auto Immune Protocol", occasionally I see it referred to as "Auto Immune Paleo". AIP is the strictest of all the frameworks, cutting out not just unnatural, processed foods but some genuinely real foods too.

It is an elimination diet aimed at helping you find out which foods are wreaking havoc in your body, occasionally foods found to be problematic can be reintroduced once you heal your gut.

On top of all the restrictions of paleo, AIP excludes all nuts, seeds and nightshades.

How they fit together

For the most part, AIP is the most restrictive, although it does allow for AIP-friendly sugars such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, molasses, etc. which Whole30 does not. AIP and Whole30 fit within the Paleo framework, and Primal is Paleo with the addition of high-quality, ideally raw dairy.

Conclusion

All of these diets restrict foods that provide excessive, nutrient-void carbohydrates and commonly cause inflammation; foods that were not present in our ancestors' diets. For many of us the inflammation is slow burning and takes years to cause noticeable issues, this makes it difficult to implicate food choices we've made over the years prior.

Selecting a diet for good health involves listening to your body. To make the most of any diet I recommend making a food diary, with notes on everything you ate as well as how well you feel.