Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Diet Plan Reviews: Primal.

Everyone knows that eating right is important. However, with the vast array of different diet plans and programs out there, it is amazing anyone eats anything at all! Yesterday it was no fat, eat carbs, today it is fats are good but low carbs, tomorrow it's eat only lemons!

So, in keeping the the review series, I thought I would start looking at some of the different diet plans out there. Instead of starting with an obvious one, I thought I would start with one that maybe not all of you have heard of. It is a new-ish movement, built on previous movements, called 'Primal'. It has been developed and promoted by Mark Sisson, in book and blog form.

It bares some relation to the low-carbs/Atkins style diets, but developed from the Paleo diet that came out a few years ago now.

Like most diet plans these days, it is not just about food, but includes lifestyle and fitness etc. Mark has created a 10 step blueprint for what life should be like. However, for the sake of this review, I'm just going to outline his dietary suggestions.

Brief Overview:
The basis of the theory is that all creatures function best eating their evolutionary diets. As grains were only introduced to the human diet reasonably recently in evolutionary terms (last 10,000 years), our bodies are not adapted to eating them and do not function at their optimum with a diet heavy with such carbohydrates. Instead, we should be focused on the food available to hunter-gatherers such as meat, fish, fowl, nuts, seeds, fruit, roots and tubers.

His Eating Plan:
In very simple terms (taken from his site).

Protein takes priority.

Limit carbs to just enough to provide glucose for the brain and to provide energy for occasional anaerobic exercise.

Learn to love fats.

(Read more:

My Thoughts:

There are definitely some parts of his logic I don't agree with. For example, he makes the argument that grains have developed natural 'anti-nutrients' in order to stop them being eaten, so that they can fall and grow instead. 

"The grain is anything but defenseless, though. It has an array of chemical defenses, including various lectins, gluten, and phytic acid, that disrupt your digestion, cause inflammation, and prevent you from absorbing vital nutrients and minerals." (see

This seems a rather weak argument, and while not necessarily a central point to his theory, it does suggest that a lot of his theory is based on things he's experienced to be true, but then has tried to justify it with weak logic/cause and effect etc.  So, it might be best to use the same steps he is using but not necessarily buy into all his explanations. 

However, what about the basis that we should eat what our ancestors ate? 

Most of the suggestions for eating are pretty healthy in general: cutting out fast food, reducing sugar and sodium intake and eating fresh are sensible suggestions. Further there is a growing support for focusing on eating nutrient dense food, so more veggies and fruit is great. 

The program is pretty down on dairy, which to be honest I'm not a fan of. I love my milk, cheese and yogurt, and getting enough calcium without them takes some serious planning. With two grandmothers in their 80's and 90's I know what not having enough calcium does to you.  

The big debated issue is the carbs Vs. protein, which comes down to: have our bodies adapted to eating grains in the last 10,000 years?

It is difficult to tell in that Primal eaters point to the reduced stature of cultures that were mainly carb based, and the increase in size with protein, along with the growing obesity epidemic. However, there are so many confounding variables in such historical studies. Often the groups pointed to were peasant farmers who ate little else than carbs, so did not have other micro nutrients, and then there were people within those societies that were eating large amounts of meat but were still very small. And the current obesity problem, I would argue, is more related to the increase in sugar and trans-fats along with a severe reduction in exercise and other calorie burning activities such as staying naturally warm than just carbs.

On the flipside, there is growing evidence of a number of digestive diseases related to grains. So obviously some people do have problems processing these. 

So, overall: the aim of eating primal, with a focus on fresh, natural food that is nutrient dense is a great goal. 
Whether you should cut out dairy and healthy grains and legumes (so, maybe not croissants and poptarts) is something I'm not completely sold on. 

But, I should put my money where my mouth is, shouldn't I? 

Over the next week I will do more research into the Primal diet, and try implementing it for a month. 
If anyone wants to join me, give a shout out and I'll send you more information (or you can check out Mark's Daily Apple which has all the info, you can also get his book from Amazon: The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy (Primal Blueprint Series)

No comments:

Post a Comment