Nutrition Answers: Part 1

February 4, 2014




I really enjoyed reading all of your comments from the Nutrition Q & A last week! Sometimes I don’t even know where to start when it comes to my nutrition posts, simply because there is so much information. Reading about what you are interested in right now and what you want answers to certainly gives me plenty to write about!

Since there were so many great questions that I wanted to answer in great detail, I’m going to split this up into a few segments. It’s hard to answer these questions in a brief way because there are a variety of factors that often need to be explained.

I’m starting with the question that Amy @ The Little Honey Bee asked regarding paleo protein and the controversy around beans and grains. As I sat down to finish writing this post last night, I happened to notice that Amy wrote a Paleo post the same day. Great minds think alike.



(Sorry to single you out Amy, it was a good question!)


A little background on the paleo diet for those who are unfamiliar with it….


The paleo diet is based off foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate. This is a diet free from all grains, legumes (beans), dairy, alcohol, sugar, and sodium. The idea behind this is that our digestive systems have not biologically evolved since the days of the paleolithic man (cave man), and therefore we cannot process all of the new foods that have been introduced to the human diet over the years.


Paleo-eaters opt for grass-fed beef, chicken, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Beans, legumes, and grains are off limits for followers of the paleo diet because these crops were not around when the paleolithic man evolved.


This evolutionary factor is the main reason our body cannot tolerate sodium. The Paleolithic man ate very little sodium and our bodies have developed mechanisms for storing it because of this. Very little sodium is excreted from the body and we retain nearly 98% of what we intake. This causes blood pressure to rise because sodium and water are besties and hang out together. When water is not excreted, it accumulates in the bloodstream and your blood pressure goes up. (This is also why you feel bloated when you eat too many chips).


The argument is that hunter-gatherers lived lives free of chronic illnesses such as obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, acne, and more.


From a science perspective, this makes sense. It may seem like the Stone Age was quite a long time ago, but it’s not enough time for evolution. The paleo argument is that the human body has not had sufficient time to adapt to modern food. Not to mention, I don’t remember reading about any cavemen that were obese and had type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.


But with any nutrition trend, I’m skeptical. So I took to research for the answer….





The problem with the paleo plan is there is not much science to support it. End of story. I agree that if you are sensitive to dairy or grains, this diet can be great for you to clean up your insides. But what are the long-term effects? It’s too early to tell.


Why am I skeptical? Because there is far too much evidence against this dietary plan. Numerous research articles have been published in support of a plant-based diet to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.


The article Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Nonvegetarian Dietary Patterns from the December issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics discusses that studies have shown that plant-based dietary patterns are associated with both lower cardiometabolic risk and lower coronary heart disease risk.


Additionally, this study (and many others) have noted that non-vegetarians have the highest body mass index (BMI) and the highest proportion of obese subjects. Energy-dense nutrients such as total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat where the highest amongst non-vegetarians, which have been associated with higher rates of heart disease. The strict vegetarian group had the highest intake of fiber from foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. High fiber diets have been linked with lower rates of several chronic diseases, according to the article Coronary heart disease prevention: Nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns from the Journal of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine.


I know what you’re thinking, “but paleolithic man didn’t have heart disease”….


Yes, this is true. However, hunter-gatherers ate wild game that is very lean and very low in fat. He did not eat chicken and beef pumped with hormones and processed in a meat-packing plant. Modern-day meat is not the same as Stone Age meat. Even if you are buying “grass-fed” or “organic”, how do you really know where your meat is coming from and how it is prepared?

The purpose of this post is not to convince you to give up your chicken dinner every night. Lean meat is an excellent source of protein and B vitamins and is low in carbohydrates. However, the meat our current society consumes is different from the Paleolithic era and consistent consumption is highly correlated with chronic diseases.

It should also be noted that beans have been around for thousands of years. Pinto beans were cultivated more than 5,000 years ago in ancient Peru and are high in folate, fiber, and potassium. If you want more bean info, check out this site.


P.S. I know this is a controversial topic, but I didn’t start this site to praise the latest nutrition fads. I have been trained to differentiate between myths and evidence-based research.  I know many of you have had success with a paleo diet, and if that works for you then great! However, the long-term effects are inconclusive and I’m here to report the facts.

The best part about evidence-based nutrition? It’s always changing. 

A year from now new research may be published that contradicts everything on this post. Therefore, I would have to update my site on the current findings. There might be a plethora of information that is published in support of the paleo diet years from now.


Until then, keep eating your beans!





Do you follow a Paleo diet?


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  • Kim @ BusyBod

    Kathryn thanks so much for this post! It can be so tough being a vegetarian in the midst of the paleo craze. Especially as part of the fitness community, I often feel like people are judging me, like I’m not committed enough to getting strong or something. That said, I’ve always felt like the science was on my side. I’m extremely skeptical of anything that isn’t well-researched, but everyone assumes I’m just biased. Your objective assessment is excellent. And I love your P.S., this is definitely controversial and I give you so much credit for stating your conclusions regardless of the hype. You’re amazing, I can’t wait for more nutrition answers posts!

    • Kathryn

      Thank you so much Kim! I definitely have my opinions about things, but I try my hardest to present both sides of the argument and the evidence to support them. Sometimes I have to go through and edit my posts because I fear that I’m going to present the material in the wrong way. I really spend a great deal of time on posts like this to make sure I get all my facts straight becuase one of my goals with this blog is to emphasize the importance of taking advice from credible sources that have done their research. Glad you enjoyed this post :)

  • Erin @ The Almond Eater

    Ahhh thank you for THE FACTS. I feel like I’m always wondering about nutrition “trends” but I don’t hop on board because I don’t really know if it’s good/bad/etc. I think the Paleo diet is a good thought and it makes sense…but they may rethink it in a few years. Plus, I love beans sooooo….gotta have those!

    • Kathryn

      I agree, most nutrition trends are developed by doctors who are just good writers or salesman and happen to write a persuasive book that everyone reads. The problem is, doctors honestly don’t get much nutrition education in med school and they often don’t cite their research. I agree with the fact that the Paleo diet has good intentions, but it just isn’t practical with all the convenience/processed foods that are available these days!

  • Kathryn K

    I could not agree more with you Kathryn— Because there is far too much evidence against this dietary plan. Numerous research articles have been published in support of a plant-based diet to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

    • Kathryn

      It’s true, there are thousands of studies that support plant-based diet for the prevention of chronic diseases! I am not biased by any means, I am simply here to report the facts :)

  • Lauren

    Yes! :) Love this Kathryn! :)

  • Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog

    Paleo is such an interesting topic – thanks for covering it! To me, some of the principles of Paleo are valuable such as eat less sugar, eliminate processed foods, eat lots of veggies, etc. However, I agree that important food groups such as whole grains and beans don’t need to eliminated from a diet unless you are truly sensitive to them. In any event, Paleo might be a great way to discover one’s food sensitivities. For me, it wouldn’t be sustainable over time – just not enough variety!

    • Kathryn

      You hit the nail on the head! I agree that limiting sugar, sodium, alcohol, etc. is good for our digestion and prevention of diseases. However, the plan as a whole is flawed and consuming meat without incorporating any kind of grains or beans might be ok for your waist line at the time. But in the long run it will be hurting you! I agree with you, I wouldn’t last more than a day on this diet! I’d miss my daily dose of beans too much ;)

  • Amy @ Long Drive Journey

    This is a fabulous post, girl. I am so glad you’re actually sharing EVIDENCE based information instead of anecdotes and fads. That is so important, and it seems like it’s not happening in many places these days. I agree with you – if the science suddenly shows that paleo is the way to go, then my opinion will change, but for now, I think, great if it’s working for you, but I don’t need to jump on the bandwagon in order to call myself healthy.

    • Kathryn

      You have the right attitude Amy! I’m so happy you understand the importance of evidence-based research because it is the only thing that separates myths from facts. My one goal as a nutrition blogger is to stress the importance of this as much as I possibly can. :)

  • Amy @ The Little Honey Bee

    I wish I could jump through the computer screen and give you a hug. Seriously Kathryn!!! THANK YOU! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you writing this post. I do not mind one bit to be singled out (but I should probably check my grammar prior to posting comments). So helpful. My head spins and you always explain things so concisely and able to understand. I know you read my post yesterday and I do love some aspects of paleo but I’m glad we both agree that I can keep my peanut butter. You’re awesome.

    • Kathryn

      I’m so glad I could help you out in any way! I don’t want you to ever have give up your peanut butter and I’m so flattered that you like the post! I really try my best to dig into the research on both sides of the argument and report back in a way that people can easily understand. Thanks for asking such a great question, keep ’em coming!

  • Sarah Pie

    Awesome post! So many people jump right into things without the EVIDENCE and it is always refreshing to see someone who is willing to get to the heart of the matter. I agree with everyone here that Paleo has some excellent principles but overall it needs more research to back up its claims.

    • Kathryn

      Exactly! The program definitely has good intentions, but certainly has its flaws and I’m trying my best to do nothing but report the facts! You can’t argue with science ;)

  • Mandie Marie @ The Fruitful Turtle

    I love this post…probably one of the best and clear explantations of the paleo diet! You can always tell if someone knows what they are talking about, if they can explain the topic clearly :) I’m loving these segments ~ keep up the awesome work :)

  • Kim Silverman

    This post is REALLY REALLY helpful, Thanks!

    I have tried to have a relatively healthy diet recently and sometimes found the information online quite confusing. Now I have a better idea about paleo diet and how I’m going to organize my new diet :-D

  • Susie Jacobs

    Hmmm. I never really thought about trying the paleo diet, but I do know many crossfit athletes love this diet. After your informative post, I might think about trying this out. Might be good for a yoga freak like me.

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