Bacon won’t make you fat—pasta will

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Eating like a caveman to maximize your health

 

Contrary to popular belief, bacon and other fat-laden foods won’t make you fat—sugar, carbs, and a sedentary lifestyle will.

Diets and labels often go hand-in-hand. There are diets that eliminate entire food groups: vegan, vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, pescatarian; fad diets: gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, carb-free; diets made famous by celebrities like the Lemonade Diet (Master Cleanse) that Beyoncé did for 14 days; and extremely ridiculous diets, like the Cabbage Diet or the classic Grapefruit Diet.

With so many options and choices regarding food—such a simple yet essential facet of our everyday lives—it’s no wonder that most of us are overwhelmed and confused about what to eat and what not to eat. One day, the media says fruits are good for you; the next day, not so much.

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, 60 per cent of Canadians are overweight or obese. We are, as they say, “overfed and undernourished”. Even with this astounding reality, it’s no surprise that the diet and weight loss industry—a multi-million dollar money-making machine—will keep trying to sell us on Hydroxycut and the Ab Circle Pro.

So what, then, is the solution to all of this nonsense? Think back to our ancient ancestors and how they survived and sustained their hunter-gatherer days without any gadgets, gimmicks, pills or potions. They simply ate real, whole foods that were grown or hunted from the ground – no GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or questionable “Frankenfoods” made in factories.

Introducing the Paleo Diet, also known as the Paleolithic Diet (think dinosaurs) or Caveman Diet, a simple and easy-to-follow concept about mimicking how our ancestors ate, moved and lived over 10,000 years ago, before cows were milked by machines and the invention of the Twinkie.

Essentially, you’re eliminating all processed and inflammatory foods from the modern S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) such as Frappuccinos and everything bagels, and replacing them with nutritious, healing foods such as smoked salmon frittatas and green smoothies that complement our bodies’ genetics.

It’s simple science; no calorie counting needed.

What to eat:

  • Meats – preferably free-range and organic (e.g. chicken, beef, wild-caught fish and seafood)
  • Vegetables – lots of leafy greens (e.g. kale, spinach, swiss chard, parsley)
  • Fruits – choose low-GI (glycemic index) ones (e.g. berries, lemons, apples)
  • Healthy fats – don’t be afraid of fats, eat plenty (e.g. avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, bacon)
  • Nuts and seeds – in moderation (our ancestors wouldn’t have had access to a tub of cashews)

What to avoid:

  • Grains (e.g. bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, cereal, muffins)
  • Artificial/refined sugar
  • Dairy (e.g. milk, yogurt, ice cream)
  • Legumes (e.g. beans, peanuts, lentils, soy: tofu, soy milk, vegan substitutes for meat)
  • Alcohol

It helps to think of food by nutrients and not by food groups, as the Canada’s Food Guide would like us to believe. You want to make sure that you’re eating an abundance of proteins and fats, while keeping carbohydrate intake to a minimum. Your protein source should come from meats and eggs, fats from the list above, and carbohydrates, mainly from leafy, green vegetables and one or two fruits.

The ironic thing is that you can eat all the broccoli you want and your carb count will still be lower than if you were to eat a bowl of instant noodles. To visualize it, your plate should be 80 per cent vegetables, 15 per cent protein, and 5 per cent fat. A lovely example would be a bowl of steamed spinach with chopped chicken breast and avocado drizzled with olive oil.

Here’s a sample meal plan so you can see how easy it is to eat Paleo in a day:

Breakfast: bacon, eggs, and a green smoothie
Lunch: lemon-infused chicken and steamed kale
Dinner: steak, asparagus, and mashed sweet potato
Snack: rolled turkey and apple slices

Following this natural, holistic way of eating will inevitably eliminate diseases such as obesity, leaky gut syndrome, migraines, chronic fatigue and more. Instead, you will be diagnosed with glowing skin, shiny hair, healthy nails, sparkling eyes, copious amounts of energy, amazing sleep, and excess weight that melts right off.

As with everything, make sure it works for you. Significant factors such as age, gender, occupation, activity level, and health issues should be considered. Even though the Paleo Diet comes pretty close, there is no one, perfect diet that every individual will thrive on. Tweak as necessary. Have “cheat meals” and get right back on track. Be mindful of moderation.

However, having astonishing health doesn’t stop with dinner—incorporate the Paleo way to how you eat, sleep, exercise, and manage stress. As cliché as it sounds, don’t think of it as a “diet”, but as a lifestyle. Eat clean, sleep well, move daily, and de-stress. Instead of putting emphasis on what you can’t eat, focus on the exciting new world of foods and flavours to introduce to your palate.

To learn more about the Paleo Diet, some must-reads are The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D; The Paleo Solution by New York Times best-selling author Robb Wolf, and Paleoista by Neil Stephenson. For delicious, Paleo-friendly recipes, visit thepaleodiet.com, nomnompaleo.com, paleoleap.com, or paleogrub.com. Embrace your inner caveman (or cavewoman!)

*** Sozanny Chea is not a health expert, nutritionist, dietician, or health care professional – just a true believer from her own personal research and experience. Please consult your practitioner if you have any concerns.

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9 thoughts on “Bacon won’t make you fat—pasta will

  1. I would follow this caveman diet if it weren’t for the meat category! Other than that it sounds super clean and simple.

  2. Firstly, I’d like to state that I am not trying to bash this article. I think it is wonderful that people are interested in talking about diets and lifestyles. However mentioning veganism, vegetarianism, and plant based lifestyles with “diet fads” is quite disrespectful. It gives others the impression that it’s a bad thing to choose this lifestyle, when it most certainly is not.

    Eating meat three times a day, like suggested above in the sample meal plan, results not only in a unhealthy consumption of animal protein for your system to handle, but increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other illnesses people face in our society today. Meats (yes bacon) will in fact slow you down, cause fatigue and increase your weight, the same way that dairy will. This is because animal protein, like all flesh, includes high levels of fat storage and cholesterol produced by the body of that being/animal you’re eating. It is extremely hard for our body to digest this kind of protein, resulting in the increase of many illnesses that are the leading tragedies in our health.

    Another point, carbs do not make you fat. Don’t get me wrong, your body needs fat, but this fat should be coming from plant-based foods (like avocado, coconut oil, seeds, nuts), not from a large daily amount of animal protein that will increase your cholesterol and slow your metabolism down.

    Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. Carbohydrates are easily used by the body for energy. All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy. Carbohydrates are needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly. There are, however, good carbs and bad carbs that people need to be aware of. Good carbs (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and soy products in their natural, unrefined, unprocessed forms) are actually what your brain thrives from. Good carbs turn into glucose, which powers every cell in your body. They also include high levels of fibre, keeping you full and energized. Bad carbs (refined grains, sweets, biscuits) are carbs that have been refined and processed, which strips away beneficial fiber. Carbohydrates are a necessity and shouldn’t be cut out of your diet. Good carbs will not make you fat.

    The best thing you can do for your body? This article is right about eliminating processed garbage, exercising daily and de-stressing. Movement is a beautiful way to keep healthy, and you need it! However for eating, be mindful! Know your facts about animal protein vs. plant-based protein.

    • Hi Alysha,

      Thank you for reading my article.

      May I clarify: as someone who was a vegetarian for several months before going full vegan for a year, I would never refer to plant-based diets as “fad diets”. Those are what the Lemonade and Cabbage Diets are, along with trendy terms and labels like “gluten-free” (cupcakes) and “fat-free” (yogurt) which doesn’t necessarily make that food item healthy. A lot of my friends are vegetarians and vegans, either for ethical, moral, health, or religious reasons so understand that I fully respect that.

      Obviously, I do not condone eating bacon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (the headline is a teaser!). As I stated, “be mindful of moderation” and meats should be organic, grass-fed, and free-range, making them free of hormones and antibiotics. Having free-range, uncured bacon now and then is certainly not harmful or dangerous.

      You say that animal protein “increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other illnesses people face in our society today”. I would argue that sugar, refined carbs, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle are the leading causes of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity — not chicken breast and wild salmon.

      You say that “it is extremely hard for our body to digest this kind of protein” but what about grains and legumes? I can argue (through research) that grains, yes, even whole grains, like quinoa (although a seed), brown rice, wheat, barley, and legumes like beans, lentils and soy all contain phytates in forms of lectins and saponins that act as a protective mechanism and pokes tiny holes in our gut which causes a plethora of colon and inflammatory issues, resulting in reduced absorption of nutrients.

      Also, soy causes a whole range of hormonal and estrogen problems. Except maybe tempeh or miso, which are a lot less modified and processed than tofu, soy milk, and traditional vegan substitutes for meat and cheese. 90% of all soy and corn in North America are genetically modified, it’s scary.

      Not to sound defensive, but I never did actually state that carbs make you fat. Pasta does though, as we all know. I’m a huge advocate of (good) carbs, be it sweet potatoes, plantains, fruit, yams, and I even stated that carbohydrate source should come “mainly from leafy, green vegetables”. Everyone needs carbs to function, especially those who perform long, endurance workouts. However, a lot of those who are overweight or suffer with obesity are that way because they’re eating way too many (bad) carbs (pop, doughnuts, McDonald’s, etc.). In these cases, or people who are dieting for a competition, or those interested in weight/fat loss in general, low-carb diets work because it will force the body into a ketogenic state, leaving the body with no choice but to burn off the fat before using carbohydrates as a fuel source.

      You say, “don’t get me wrong, your body needs fat, but this fat should be coming from plant-based foods (like avocado, coconut oil, seeds, nuts)”, however, the article condones “healthy fats – don’t be afraid of fats, eat plenty (e.g. avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, butter, bacon), minus the animal-based fats like ghee, butter, and bacon. Again, moderation.

      Meat contains exorbitant amounts of protein, even little amounts of meat, “20% of your plate”, or a the size of a deck of cards. Plant-based proteins such as quinoa, tofu, beans and lentils, have *some* protein, and a lot of carbs. I guess it’s about the lesser of two evils. Some people can’t tolerate or are sensitive to grains. Some people find meat repulsive.

      Ultimately, The Paleo Diet and plant-based diets (assuming you’re doing vegetarian and vegan correctly and not eating vegan mac ‘n’ cheese and vegan ice cream all day), are excellent choices for they both have similar ideals: eat whole, natural foods, preferably in raw or unprocessed/unrefined forms. It’s simple.

      • While eating gluten-free without a reason to is indeed trendy, I wouldn’t say simply labeling food as gluten-free, and producing gluten-free options, is a negative thing. It improves the lives of those living with coeliac disease a lot by simplifying finding appropriate food options for them.

        • Hi Albatross,

          Thank you for your comment! I agree — as a non-Celiac that is gluten-free/grain-free, I don’t think the gluten-free concept is entirely trendy, although it is in terms of marketing. With the exception of those diagnosed with Celiac disease, simply buying (very expensive) GF products just to try to be healthier, instead of simply replacing those breads, pastas, cereals, muffins, etc. with natural, whole, unprocessed foods doesn’t make too much sense. As a treat, I love almond flour and coconut flour based desserts which are both Paleo and gluten-free!

  3. LOL @ calling vegetarianism a fad diet (practiced by billions of people across the world) and saying that paleo, essentially a stab in the dark to what our ancestors ate, is THE solution.

    Paleo is THE definition of a fad diet.

    There is no evidence that legumes are bad for you. And the little evidence that shows that whole grains are bad for you is just that — little. The carbophobic paleo “gurus” are a bunch of quacks. The REAL nutritional experts who study obesity know that carbohydrates in and of themselves do not cause obesity or diabetes. Insulin resistance is much more complicated than that, paleo authors realize that, so they create dumbed-down pseudo-science for their followers to flock to.

    Paleo is a movement driven by authors who have books, seminars, protein powders and supplements to sell.

    It’s simple, really, just eat whole foods. No one is getting fat from eating beans or sweet potatoes or fresh fish for that matter.

  4. It’s sort of ironic that bacon is the poster child of paleo when bacon is perhaps the least healthiest meat on the planet.

    I agree that the solution isn’t to “eat more meat”, it’s to eat better foods. Which population in the world eats more meat than Americans/Canadians that live longer? (Answer: none.)

    The Japanese eat half of the meat (including fish) than Americans and live healthier, longer lives. They also consume more rice and wheat than Americans. Go figure.

    While I disagree with you that “meat = disease”, vegetarians don’t live dramatically longer than omnivores, it’s very clear that eating more meat isn’t the solution.

    Simply put, if it has a label, don’t eat it!

    • Hi Mike,

      Thank you for your comments. I agree with your latter points.

      Just wanted to clarify again that I don’t think plant-based diets are fads.

      Most bacon you find in grocery stores are highly processed and packed full of sodium, nitrates, and preservatives. Bacon has a bad rap for being high in fat and I guess Paleo-believers like to capitalize on that. People who follow the Paleo diet properly do NOT eat bacon on a regular basis, or even at all. Just as people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet properly do not eat veggie hot dogs and veggie “cheeze”, or what I like to call “Frankenfoods”.

      I’ve read The China Study (considered controversial, and even questionable, but I still appreciate it), which highly favours plant-based diets. It’s based on research of people’s diets in rural China. The Okinawan people of Japan are the longest-living and happiest people on Earth. Is it because they eat meat? No, of course not. It’s because they eat whole foods and little to no labelled foods. As someone of Asian decent, I can attest to the fact that traditional Asian diets high in fish, vegetables, tofu, miso soup, seaweed, rice, and plenty of green tea is a good thing and will definitely not make you fat. Good thing I love sushi!

      A diet containing 20% meat is not the culprit. Honestly, I’ve never eaten as much (or as many) vegetables until I started following Paleo. Please don’t bash the Paleo diet; many have found great health with it.

      Bottom line: don’t eat things that come in boxes, bags or bottles.

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