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Have you tried the caveman diet? Lawrencians say 'yes' to Paleo

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Health experts say eating like a caveman can be good for you, in moderation. Just don't overdo it like this guy. Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts with just a little lean protein.

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Simple choices

Inject your next snack break with extra goodness by trying one of these simple, Paleo-friendly options:

• Apple slices spread with almond butter.

• A handful of cinnamon nuts. Dust whole raw nuts, like almonds, with cinnamon and bake at 250 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool and snack.

• A pair of hard-boiled eggs with a dash of sea salt.

• A small bowl of guacamole salad. Combine equal amounts of cubed avocado and tomato, then sprinkle with chopped red onion, cilantro and the juice of a small lime.

• A glass of fruit-and-veggie juice, fresh from the blender. Try dark, leafy greens like spinach with a handful of blueberries and a small carrot for sweetness. Blend until smooth.

• Kale chips. Sprinkle kale with olive oil and bake at 250 degrees for about 20 minutes, until crisp.

- Associated Press

Thomas Thatcher, owner of CrossFit Lawrence, went on a Paleo diet four years ago, cutting out all processed foods. While he hasn't been strict about it the entire time, the health benefits haven't gone away.

"My whole diet philosophy is just stick with real food, things that grow," Thatcher explained. And he's in as good of shape as he's ever been because of it, he says.

While the Paleo diet can take many forms, it's usually interpreted as going back to the days of the caveman, meaning no manmade foods. It often excludes grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes and anything refined. People going Paleo say the modern diet has gotten out of whack, leading to an increase in chronic disease throughout the United States, and that the Paleo diet helps maintain a healthy metabolism, reduce inflammation and improve overall health.

Lawrence family doctor Ryan Neuhofel said that, no matter what, it's important to eat a balanced diet. He also recommended that people undergoing a radical shift in their diet should be under the supervision of a professional. Radically cutting carbs can lead to severe ketoacidosis, he said, and the Paleo diet can sometimes leave people short on fiber.

"The human body is remarkably adaptable, so I don't think there is one 'ideal' diet for everyone," he said. "I think Michael Pollan's advice, 'Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants,' is good advice."

Nancy O'Connor, director of outreach and education at the Merc Co-op, said the popularity of Paleo and other whole-food diet has brought increasing awareness to the benefits of skipping processed foods.

"If you look around at all the convenience stores that are now selling whole foods and have natural food sections, that speaks a lot to the growth of that," she said. "The Merc has been in business for 40 years. We're no longer a niche store."

But local nutrition educator JoAnn Farb said one danger of the Paleo diet is that people might use it as a license to gorge on meat, fish, eggs and oil, which she says are linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as many environmental and moral concerns.

"To the degree that Paleo gets people off of sugar, processed carbs, dairy and gluten, I think it helps people to feel better," she said. "If any of those things have been major factors sabotaging an individual's health, people are likely to see some improvement in the Paleo diet, even if they are still consuming animal protein and oil, which are not health-promoting at all."

Sue Westwind, of Lawrence, said her health improved greatly after recently turning to a Paleo diet.

"After I kicked the grains, I felt a huge upsurge in energy and got back on track," she said. "With a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, you can't go wrong. I say go Paleo."

Comments

Aileen Ball 4 months, 4 weeks ago

There must be a mis-quote here. Severe ketoacidosis? That's just not accurate.

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Ryan Neuhofel 4 months, 4 weeks ago

A very low (less than 30 grams/day) diet can lead to significant ketoacidosis. Although it is very rare for otherwise health people who are getting adequate fluids. This scenario typically occurs in people with chronic medical conditions taking certain medications. I have seen a few people hospitalized, and one on short-term dialysis, after undertaking a "crash" low cal/carb diet.

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Aileen Ball 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Thanks for the response, Dr. Neuhofel--I wonder if you can comment on the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis?

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Ryan Neuhofel 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Ketosis is elevated levels (concentration) of ketones in the blood. Ketones are an acid, but these ketones are naturally balanced for in terms of acid-base (pH) balance by several mechanisms. However, rarely, if these compensations cannot occur to a great enough degree, a ketosis can lead lead to a frank "acidosis" (low pH). If this occurs, it is called a keto-acidosis.

An otherwise healthy person will not likely get significantly acidodic from a low carb/cal diet. However, certain medical conditions and medications can interfere with those compensation mechanisms and make this more possible.

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Aileen Ball 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks for the follow-up. I appreciate your care in emphasizing the rarity of ketoacidosis in otherwise healthy people who have reduced their carb intake. I only wish the text of the article itself had been so nuanced.

Of course, the paleo diet need not be particularly low carb--although grains are eschewed, the diet promotes the consumption of plenty of vegetables and fruits, even the starchy ones!

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Ryan Neuhofel 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes, it's hard to boil this issue down to a few quotes. As a doctor, I must be careful in declaring anything "totally safe" to a general audience because there are nearly always caveats and warnings. Also, the paleo diet, like most, has lots of variation among it's supporters. Some say dairy is okay, while others say not. Some hardcore paleo people claim cooking food is bad! I think a paleo diet that emphasizes plenty of veggies, beans, fruits and nuts is a great way to eat for most people. It's certainly leaps healthier than the standard American diet. :)

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