Paleo Diet and the Retrofit Philosophy

How does the Paleo Diet compare to Retrofit’s nutrition philosophy?

Eat Real Food

  • Paleo diet emphasizes and encourages real food, including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts & seeds; excludes grains, legumes, potatoes, dairy products, refined oils, refined sugars, processed foods, and salt (for more information:
  • Retrofit wholeheartedly agrees that fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts & seeds are an important part of good nutrition, and that refined sugars, oils, processed foods, and excess salt should be limited or avoided.  However, we also believe that whole grains, legumes, and dairy products are real and healthy foods eaten in the right amounts according to the balanced plate.
  • Other notes: Lean meats & healthy fats (primarily monounsaturated and omega 3 polyunsaturated) are encouraged on the Paleo diet.  Saturated fat is not viewed as a “bad” fat; however, grass fed beef, which has a lower saturated fat content, is encouraged.
  • Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo Movement, suggests that up to 15% of intake can come from “non-Paleo approved” foods and beverages

Calories are the Bottom Line

  • Paleo diet does not encourage calorie counting but claims that adhering to the guidelines will naturally lead to a decrease in total calorie intake.
  • Retrofit spin: People living in the Paleolithic era had to work for their food and were very active. They also probably ate less often and fasted more due to lack of availability of food. Portion control, regardless of food choices, is necessary to create the calorie deficit that causes weight loss.

Perfect Plate and Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2010

  • DGA recommended: 10-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrate, 20-35% fat
  • Paleo recommended: 19-35% protein, 35-45% carbohydrate, 20-46% fat
  • Retrofit take: Balanced diet is key: All real foods can and should be included, with respect to personal food preference and tolerance. The 50/25/25 distribution of the 9” plate ensures we are not eating too much of any given nutrient, but a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat.

Table Plate Chair

  • The Paleo diet speaks to the what and how much of eating, but does not speak to the WHERE— it is merely a food prescription.
    • The Retrofit philosophy focuses on the table-plate-chair.
  • It does not speak to the many reasons we eat unrelated to hunger, and how to break free of established negative thought patterns surrounding food choices, body image, and self-worth related to weight.
    • Mindset is an integral part of the Retrofit program.
  • It does exclude large groups of foods, which can perpetuate an unhealthy dieting mentality for those already prone to assigning black and white values to their choices.
    • The Retrofit philosophy is to embrace all foods.

Paleo’s Beef with Whole Grains Broken Down

  • Argument: These foods were not consumed before agricultural development made it possible to eat them (roughly 10,000 years ago).
    • Counterargument: That does not mean we shouldn’t eat them now that we figured out how.
      • They are a nutrient dense energy source that has been a staple for the survival of many cultures for thousands of years.
      • Additionally, researchers are still learning about the composition of our diet in the Paleolithic age—the lack of hard evidence that we actually ate these foods, is not proof that we did not.
  • Argument: We are not genetically adapted to eat them because our genome is largely unchanged from Paleolithic times.
    • Counterargument: Some individuals have an allergy or adverse reaction to nutrients in specific foods (such as gluten (wheat protein), casein (milk protein), peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, or shellfish). Of course, people with allergies and sensitivities to specific foods should avoid them. Otherwise, there is no reason to believe they are generally unhealthy, undigestible, unnatural, or that we are unadapted to them.
  • Argument: Studies have shown that the Paleolithic diet, which excludes whole grains, is heart healthy.
    • Counterargument: A small body of research (short-term studies with less than 30 participants) suggests that a Paleolithic-type diet may have beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and aid in weight management.
    • Often subjects experiencing benefits in these studies have had Type 2 Diabetes, insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance, and the Paleolithic diet administered was lower in calories than the control diet.
    • Studies also have shown that a vegetarian or vegan diet is heart healthy.
    • A much larger and more expansive body of research supports including whole grains as part of a balanced diet.
  • Argument: Whole grains and legumes contain anti-nutrients such as phytates, lectins, and oxalates, which decrease absorption of minerals and vitamins and cause inflammation.
    • Counterargument: Phytates simply are the form of phosphorus found in grains.
      • Phytates do decrease absorption by binding to certain minerals, but not to the extent that they would cause a deficiency in someone eating a balanced diet.
      • Further, phytates act as a fiber and an antioxidant in the body, which actually suggests an anti-inflammatory effect. Research suggests they decrease glycemic load and decrease risk of heart disease.
    • Counterargument: Lectins are proteins found in the cells of virtually all plants and animals that serve a variety of biological functions. They are destroyed in the process of cooking grains and legumes, thus rendered harmless for human ingestion.
    • Counterargument: Oxalates are present in whole grains and legumes, as well as in high quantities in many Paleo-friendly foods including most greens, squash, berries, nuts, and currants. They also may decrease the absorption of some vitamins and minerals, but not significantly.
  • Argument: They aren’t essential. We can get all the nutrients whole grains contain in other foods.
    • True, one can eat the recommended amount of carbohydrates, B vitamins, minerals, and fiber in a diet without whole grains. That doesn’t mean we should avoid them.
    • Vegetarians can meet all their nutrition needs without eating meat. That doesn’t mean we should all be vegetarian.
    • Whole grains are an excellent source of nutrient-dense energy that provide clean, healthy fuel for the body, so why not include them?!