The Paleo Diet Cannot Be Low Carb

Paleo Diet Low Carb?

It has been a while now since the low carb craze hit the United States. Yet, here we are many years later still talking about it. There must have been something to the ideas of Dr. Atkins. Indeed there was. He knew that an abundance of carbohydrates was not ideal for normal human function and that decreasing their intake could lead to weight loss. As weight loss is always a hot topic, the low-fat-fad grew. A few other popularly named diets even followed, all with same basic premise of cutting back the carbs in the diet. Included in this category is the Paleo Diet. However, I am here to proclaim this as a fallacy by those that do not eat Paleo.

Why Do We Need Carbohydrates

The Paleo Diet cannot be low carbohydrate. The whole premise that we should eat low carbohydrates goes completely against the way that our body functions. There are two very simple reasons that we should be eating carbohydrates. Foremost, our body’s primary energy source is carbohydrate and second, most of the diet should come from plants, which are denser in carbohydrate.

We Need Balance

We have to eat carbohydrates. Even those individuals that subscribe to the low carbohydrate diets know this. The key, as is often understated, is that the body needs balance. Too many carbohydrates are a problem, but so are too little. As is typical of human behavior, we go to the extremes, leaving rational thought behind. However, let’s take a simple look at the need for carbohydrates. Your body burns glucose for energy. If glucose is not available, protein and fat are used for energy, the latter being preferential. However, their use is precipitated by the conversion to glucose. The need for glucose is extremely high in the brain as it is the only macronutrient that allows proper function.


Moreover, when glucose is absent in sufficient quantities, the hormone cortisol is produced to maintain adequate blood levels. Cortisol is produced at the expense of other hormones. Add to this that many of us are already suffering from low cortisol levels due to chronic stress. Bottom line is that as this scenario plays out, hypoglycemia / low blood sugar functional can set in with accompanying hormone dysfunction. Do you have the mid afternoon lull in energy, get irritable when you don’t eat and get headaches or brain fog sometimes? You may already be headed down this path and don’t even realize it.

Plants Are Carbohydrates

Apart from any of this, most of your diet as a Paleo eater should be plants. Plants are carbohydrates. Granted, not all plants are the same. Nuts are higher in fat and protein, and beans / legumes have a reasonable amount of incomplete protein. That aside, the rest of the plants that you should be eating are carbohydrates. The carbohydrates differ in quantity and composition, but nonetheless, they are carbohydrates. Yams and butternut squash are higher in carbohydrates than say broccoli and asparagus. However, the makeup of both is a carbohydrate. When you consume a balanced diet of both carbohydrate dense and sparse plants, your total carbohydrate consumption is likely to look far more balanced than if you were to consume a diet higher in grains. Grains are of course carbohydrate laden.

So as you can see, the Paleo Diet cannot be a low carbohydrate diet by its nature when implemented correctly in a balanced fashion. Can you eat low carbohydrate on the Paleo Diet? Sure you can. I would even argue that there are times that “low carb” is the best approach. But this is not the premise of the Paleo Diet. The Paleo Diet is about eating real foods as you would find them in nature, including those that have more carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables and fruits. For Paleo success, the answer is not no / low carb, it is balanced carbs.

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One Response to The Paleo Diet Cannot Be Low Carb

  • Where is the list of acceptable starchy carbs on the Paleo Diet…I saw butternut squash and broccoli and asparagus?

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