People are often surprised when I talk to them about the don'ts of eating Paleo.  The moment they hear that I avoid grains, dairy, and legumes, it's almost as if there are no more food sources left to sustain life... "What do you eat?" is always the first question.

They already completely forgot the beginning of the conversation where I talked about a core "Paleo Recipe" consisting of picking a protein source (usually grass-fed meat/organs for me), add plenty of veggies (I always triple the veggie quantity compared to meat), introduce a source of healthy fat (usually coconut or olive oil for us; cold pressed of course), and add some spices/seasoning to amp it up. Of course fruits are added in there, but I generally try to eat more veggies than fruit in order to control how glycemic my eating is... I can get carried away with too many fruits, and I don't want to be loaded with fructose for any "bad pathogens" I may have skulking around my intestines to feed on.

Once I've brought them back around to the idea that there are still plenty of food options out there to eat very well with, the second question (I'm assuming in an effort to keep the notions of those other foods alive) is always... "But why no grains, dairy, or legumes?" The short answer for me is to avoid/heal from autoimmune conditions.

For the deeper answer, I'm going to rely on information I've collected from reading Sarah Ballantyne's The Paleo Approach book. All the next information you are about to read is my arrangement of snippets from her book; I would honestly encourage you to buy the book to if you find this information inspiring and want to know more.

There is no one thing that causes autoimmune disease. Instead, a combination of factors conspire to create an environment conducive to the development of autoimmune disease; genetics, environmental triggers, and a leaky gut caused by diet and lifestyle factors. The trick is to change the environment so that so that it no longer favors disease, but instead favors health.

  1. Genetic susceptibility... a variety of genes that collectively increase risk.
  2. Environmental triggers... previous/persistent infections, exposure to toxins, & hormonal conditions in the body.
  3. Diet & lifestyle

Many of the triggers are factors you cannot change. You can change the environment of your gut by changing what you eat and how you live. You can give your body the nutrition it needs to heal.

Leaky gut or gut dysbiosis is necessary for autoimmune disease to develop. Meaning that if you have a healthy gut barrier and healthy gut microflora, other environmental triggers and genetics are irrelevant. The key is to avoid foods that are known to irritate and damage the gut and foods that are known to contribute to gut dysbiosis.

Grains (corn, wheat, oats, rice, etc...), pseudo-grains (quinoa, chia, etc...), legumes (alfalfa, chickpeas, peanuts, beans, soybeans, etc...), and dairy products all contribute to a leaky gut and gut dysbiosis. These foods are also the most nutritionally poor foods in the Western diet. Grains contain less (often far less) nutrients of every vitamin and almost every mineral compared with vegetables. Dairy products are high in only a handful of nutrients, all of which are also readily available in meat and vegetables, which contain a far greater density and variety of other nutrients as well. Legumes, which are often recommended as a meat alternative, do not offer anywhere near the same nutritional punch as animal proteins. Grains and legumes are also high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, contributing to the gross imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the Western diet. When grains, legumes, and dairy products are consumed daily, our diets become less nutritionally dense, which results in nutrient deficiencies. Worse, these foods also damage the gut and support overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the small intestine.

Grains, psuedo-grains, legumes, dairy, nuts, seeds, and nightshades all contain substances that either directly increase the permeability of the gut (either by damaging the enterocytes or by opening the tight junctions between them) or indirectly increase the permeability of the gut (by feeding overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the small intestine). These harmful substances include lectins (specifically prolamins and agglutinins), digestive-enzyme inhibitors, saponins (especially glycoalkaloids), and pythic acid.

Thankfully, we all can chose what to feed our bodies, right?

I think it is important to know what our bodies are really asking for when we have cravings.... both in general, and when we are making big changes like changing what we eat (like a starter 30 day Paleo challenge).

When I think about it, what makes sense to me is that our bodies know what it needs (nutrient/vitamin/mineral) and can only "ask" us for it in terms of craving foods that it knows we've eaten that contain it.  They may not be the best sources, but it's what we've eaten.

For example, we shouldn't feel guilty for craving chocolate if what that translates to is our body asking for magnesium.  Alternative sources of magnesium include (amongst others) fruits like bananas and avocados.

Toss the guilt and frustration by searching online for "what your food cravings really mean", or check out some of the sites that I have referred to:

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Here's a quick bulleted list of Lauren's post over at Empowered Substances:

  1. Slow down on the nuts and seeds
  2. Don’t eat lean protein
  3. Stop drowning your body in water
  4. Don’t cook in chemicals
  5. Eat Enough Carbs

Thank You for sharing Lauren; an excellent read!

Update! I've also found some additional posts that support and expand these ideas on Sébastien's informative website:



I've really been enjoying reading Denise's unbiased blogs.  She systematically dissects the inaccuracies that have become the various "common knowledge" which are actually harming us.

My favorite article she wrote is titled The Truth About Ancel Keys: We’ve All Got It Wrong; basically explaining the history behind the contents of today's food guides, and why they are wrong.

Sarah Ballantyne

Sarah Ballantyne did such a fantastic job putting a group of posts together to as How To's and answers to so many Paleo questions that I'm going to stop typing so you can go over to her site for some initial Paleo education.

Food For Thought

Respond to everyone you encounter each day with an open and loving heart.
The difference it makes to your relationships will be remarkable and the love you
Send out to others will be returned to you tenfold. 

Jane Struthers, Attracting Abundance


I have everything that I desire.
My life overflows with abundance and I am open to receiving the gifts of the universe now.

Jane Struthers, Attracting Abundance

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