Headline-inducing, outta-a-book type diets are attractive because they tell you what to eat and what not to eat with big promises of helping you feel better, look better, end your pain, help you lose weight, dodge the disease bullet and live a long and healthy life. The list of top 10 diets can change from year to year, with a new one hitting media headlines depending on which celeb has followed it with life changing results that pulls you in, thinking that it’s the answer to your problems. It’s that monkey see, monkey do mentality that if it worked for him or her, it could work for me. But what you don’t know from that headline is the why. How did they feel as they began? Who monitored them?
With all the diets out there, is there one that could actually help you with your ongoing issue? Could there be food groups that cause that constant belly pain, the daily headaches, put you at high risk of diabetes, progress your autoimmune disease or MS faster than you want or contribute to your ever increasing blood pressure or cholesterol? You’ve heard me say how important antioxidants are in your diet, but if you’re winging it, are you really giving it your all and enough of a chance to work?
I’ve worked one on one with clients for over 20 years. I have seen fascinating results as clients shared their journey following a specific diet. Some had massive success and some met with disaster. But how do you decide what to put your attention on and actually try with gusto? I believe that has to start with the “what’s in it for me?” Is it really worth making the change and feelings of deprivation that we often have as we start something new? I feel a series coming on with this because there are SO many diets out there, and when a loyal listener asked about the Lectin Free diet, it sparked me to do some deep diving into a bunch of them. So today on EAT THIS with Lianne, which diet would be best for me (as in you)? And an introduction to Paleo, Pegan and Lectin Free.
There are people who don’t like to be told what to do, and those who prefer to be guided, coached and even ordered what to eat. It somehow takes the pressure off when you’re told what to eat. I aim to guide my clients to a place where they know what works for them and what doesn’t, without the hard right from where they are at to some mass deprivation and depression because they can’t eat their favorite foods any longer. There is a place for specific diets though, because depending on where you’re at, what you’re suffering with, there is an impact that you can have by changing your diet. Knowing which one is key.
Today I’m going to outline three diets: Paleo, Pegan and Lectin Free. Each could be a whole episode on its own, but let’s start with what each is all about, what it’s best for, what you can or can’t eat, and what a day in the life of would look like. I’ll add in my 10 cents worth obviously, and what I’ve seen work for clients so you have more than what you can Google about each diet.
First up, Paleo. Loren Cordain released his book, The Paleo Diet in 2002, and that was the rebirth of this diet as it is based on what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, from between 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. Also called the Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet and caveman diet.
What can be helped? Loren says “Improved health in almost every regard”, but more specifically, “improved energy levels throughout the day, improved blood lipids can occur with days to a week. Improved sleep, particularly when salt and alcohol are reduced. Over the long haul, weight is normalized, acne improves, blood pressure lowers and reduces the risk for metabolic syndrome. Generally, many illness and disease symptoms are ameliorated or improved”. [Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.]
In a nutshell, eating paleo means consuming whole foods from plants and animals and avoiding processed foods (think: anything that comes out of a wrapper).
What you can eat:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Natural herbs and spices
- Fresh lean meat and poultry, preferably grass-fed
- Fresh eggs
- Fresh fish and seafood, preferably wild-caught
- Healthy fats, including flaxseed, avocado, olive oil and coconut oil
- Unsweetened tea and coffee
What to avoid:
- Legumes (including beans, peas, peanuts, soy)
- Cereal grains (including rice, wheat, quinoa, cereals)
- Refined sugars
- Refined oils, including vegetable oils
- Trans fats
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed foods
Breakfast might look like scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with torn spinach and chopped parsley, any fresh fruit and some herb tea. Lunch could look like romaine lettuce salad with chicken and homemade dressing of lemon juice and olive oil, baked sweet potato sprinkled with herbs or cinnamon and some raspberries to end off. Dinner could be a grilled grass-fed steak, a bunch of vegetables sautéed in avocado oil, fresh greens and sprouts topped with sunflower and pumpkin seeds and oil and vinegar dressing. Snacks of fruit and nuts, like walnuts. So what you can’t have is hummus and dips like tzatziki because of the dairy. Coconut alternatives to dairy are helpful in baking and something like a frittata, which is super fast and can be piled high with veggies and even fish.
This is my general recommendation for peri-menopausal women and have even followed it myself after I put on a bunch of weight because I listened to a trainer at a gym that I was working out at who told me to eat my weight in grams of protein. My body blew up and I felt awful. I mostly followed the Paleo diet and did intermittent fasting (don’t worry, I will do an episode about IF soon too). It was finally what shifted that weight and sorted out my gut. There is also a study to back up that this could be more appropriate for women around menopause to shift very stuck weight. Studies also show that it can shift abdominal fat, which is the most dangerous, and improve triglyceride levels. All good!
Created by Dr Mark Hyman, the pegan diet combines key principles from paleo and vegan diets. This mashup of the vegan and paleo diets dates back to 2014, when this functional medicine doctor posted it on his blog. He noticed that elite athletes like Lebron James follow a paleo diet, while vegan Rich Roll completed five Iron Man competitions. So he decided to combine the two, forming the paleo-vegan diet plan.
I remember talking about this on the radio with host, Jerry Agar, wondering what on earth was left to eat in combining these two diets. Looking into it more, the diet focuses on less sugar and refined grains, more plants (like 75% of your plate) and minimal animal protein. For animal protein, think much less than Paleo, but more than vegan. And of that animal protein, Dr Hyman insists on grass-fed, pasture-raised sources of beef, pork, poultry and eggs. Also, low mercury fish like sardines and wild salmon are good, but “no chemicals additives, preservatives, dyes, MSG and artificial sweeteners.”
What you can eat:
- Fruits and veggies: Focus on deeper colors and “the more variety the better”
- Fish: If you consume fish, it should be low in toxins and mercury
- Meat and poultry: Eat sustainably raised or grass-fed
- Healthy fats: Nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados
- Eggs: Eat the entire thing, yolk and all
What to limit or avoid:
- Dairy: Dr. Hyman believes that dairy leads to obesity and other chronic diseases
- Gluten: None
- Grains: Gluten-free grains may be eaten only in limited amounts. The goal is to eat low-glycemic whole grains.
- Beans: Can be eaten in limited amounts. Dr. Hyman believes that beans increase blood sugar and that lectins (a protein found in beans) cause inflammation and decrease nutrient absorption.
- Vegetable oils: None.
I don’t know anyone who has followed this, but I do follow Dr Hyman’s work and he is quite focused on blood sugar balance, as well as detoxification of heavy metals after he himself had issues. I don’t see myself recommending this fully as it’s quite restrictive long term but could even out issues that someone has been suffering with, including obesity.
Lastly, the Lectin Free diet by world renowned Dr Steven Gundry. I do think I’ll do a whole episode on this because it warrants more than we have time for today. Dr Gundry put out his book, Plant Paradox, in 2017, and he believes that all disease begins in the gut and he highlights that plants have their own defence mechanism to protect them from bugs, animals and yes, us. They are trying to survive after all! Lectins are proteins that humans can’t digest and they grab onto the outside of your cells interrupting absorption of vitamins and minerals, leading to leaky gut, food sensitivities and leaving you feeling lousy with brain fog, acne, all the way through to cardiovascular disease and being overweight. Many ‘healthy’ foods contain lectins so it’s a bit of a shocker to know that your chia seeds are wiped off this list, your tomatoes, cucumbers, and colourful peppers are off this list.
What you can eat:
- pasture-raised meats, but grass fed and grass finished are key here
- A2 milk
- cooked sweet potatoes
- leafy, green vegetables
- cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts
- Garlic, and onion
- olives or extra virgin olive oil
What to avoid:
- legumes, including beans, peas, lentils, and peanuts
- nightshade vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes
- fruit, although the diet allows moderate amounts of in-season fruit
- meat from corn-fed animals
- A1 milk
You can pressure cook a lot of foods to get rid of the lectins as well as remove seeds and skin from tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. That’s where they are.
Avoiding the lectin foods can really turn things around for people quite quickly. Not to mention weight loss. Dr Gundry suggests eliminating fruits that aren’t in season as it’s full of sugar, and recommends avocado, green bananas and plantains. I don’t know about you but green banana make my teeth go funny, so I’m not sure I’ll go there, but it’s an interesting concept.
I have known people to eliminate certain nuts from their diet and belly pain goes away. And someone that I’ve been helping recently has ongoing pain in her abdomen, with what I call a ‘never-well-since’ after she had her gallbladder removed, so I suggested looking into this diet and see if it helps. Within two days, she is feeling better and having more awareness of what she is eating has really started her to feel more empowered as opposed to crappy without knowing why. Lectins are most potent in their raw state. Therefore, cooking lectin-rich foods at high temperatures can dramatically reduce their content.
Ok a quick refresh – a paleo diet mostly excludes farmed foods like dairy, grains, and beans. Pegan is 75% plants and the rest animal protein from grass fed and pasteurized animals and Lectin Free is more specific, avoiding those lectin rich foods.
Notice any similarities in all these diets? They don’t have processed foods and they eliminate sugar and grains. Overall, if I’m going to suggest a particular diet to anyone, it’s going to be a version of any of these three. The Pegan diet or a version of it is likely what I direct most people towards, but ditching all grains and all dairy can be a tough one. It’s the ever difficult see-saw of feeling like you’re living by eating what you love, and not suffering with pain or worry on a daily basis. If you need structure, then maybe one of these diets are for you.
Don’t go it totally alone though. Reach out for help, either from me or someone like me, and really do your research so you don’t end up worse off with deficiencies. Following most diets for about a month, while painful, is almost doable to see if it’s a fit, but flip flopping is not the best way forward.
If you know someone who this might help, please share and rate the podcast so others know to spend their precious time listening in. No matter what you choose, remember to eat this, one mouthful at a time.