It remains one of the most popular diets in America today and continues to be taken up by hordes across the UK and Europe. It is a diet that champions raw, nutrient dense foods and that shuns low nutrient grains and the processed foods which fill our supermarket shelves to overflowing and which cause our waste lines to do the same! However, many of those switching to Paleo do not realise they risk depriving themselves of key nutrients.
Firstly, like anything worth doing you should do it correctly. Going to the supermarket and simply buying packs of chicken and bags of salad is not the Paleo diet. When you remove the dairy and every day go-to carbohydrate sources, such as grains and legumes, from your diet you need to understand what you are doing and what you are (and should be) replacing these with.
Secondly, even when you embrace the Paleo diet in its fullness, you need to appreciate that there may be certain nutrients your body is being deprived of to a degree and of which you are not hitting your recommended daily values (“DVs”). This is particularly if you are of the Paleo school where all dairy, including milk, is on the out and out (rather than a “Neo-Paleo” diet, where raw diary is par for the course). If you are on a Paleo (or other form of reduced carb and diary diet) and training hard and pushing your body, then maintaining optimum nutrient levels is even more vital.
We set out below the key nutrients of which you may not be getting your DVs if you are on a Paleo diet and what you can do about it, to get those levels up and to make sure you really are living longer and living stronger:
Now, here’s what to do to get those DVs up!
Calcium – The buck stops here when it comes to forming and maintaining healthy bones and teeth! If you’ve cut loose from diary, then make sure you are getting healthy doses of calcium, including from the following.
Get eating those Collard Greens! Collard greens pack a whopping 23% DV per 100gms. Hot on their heels are Curly Kale (21% per 100gms) and Turnip Greens (19% per 100gms). Rocket will get you 16% per 100gms. Work these into your meals and let’s keep those bones and pearly whites healthy and strong!
Other good sources of calcium are Canned Salmon and Sardines, the ones with the soft bones in (you know, those good ol’ sardine sandwiches mum used to force down you!) and also Almonds, Brazil Nuts and Sunflower Seeds.
Supplements (check the label, calcium absorption is optimal at no more than 50mg per hit). Calcium Citrate supplements are pricier but are absorbed well by the body on an empty or full stomach. Calcium Carbonate supplements are cheaper but are absorbed best when taken with food. If you’re not getting enough sunlight, then think about getting a calcium supplement including Vitamin D (which will also help with absorption).
Magnesium – This mineral is key for a healthy immune system, regular heart rhythm, maintaining good muscle and nerve function and goes a long way towards giving you strong bones. Something to remember, diets high in protein can increase the need for magnesium so be sure to work the following into your meals.
You can’t go wrong with those dark, leafy greens: raw Spinach packs a hefty punch with 20% DV per 100gms or 39% per cup (180gms) of cooked spinach (Popeye’s forearms don’t lie!), followed by Swiss Chard (38% per cooked cup) and Kale at 19% per cooked cup.
Get some nuts! (And seeds!) Half a cup of Pumpkin Seeds will bowel you over at 81% DV of magnesium. Then there’s Sesame Seeds and Brazil Nuts (both at 63%) and Almonds coming in at 48% DV. Plenty of fish, such as Mackerel (24% RDV per 100gm) are also a great source of magnesium.
You can of course always look to magnesium supplements but if you are reaching for the above whole food sources, then that can be avoided. Now, if you are training hard and focusing on building lean muscle, then you may want to consider magnesium supplementation as part of a zinc and magnesium (ZMA) stack (usually taken half an hour before lights out).
B Vitamins – These vitamins (including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid) assist your body in generating energy from the food you eat and in forming red blood cells, with Folic Acid assisting the body in generating new, healthy cells. For this reason, folic acid is essential for pregnant women for the healthy development of their unborn baby.
Now some do claim that a Paleo diet or other diet bereft of cereals and legumes is going to result in deficiencies of the B Vitamins. However, there are many food sources that were key components of the original, spear wielding Palo diet that are packed in the Bs. Top of the list being Organ Meats such as Liver (29% folic acid DV in just 20gm!). Many will turn their noses up at liver (but don’t let that be you!). Cooked right, it can be a flavoursome dish bursting with folic acid. Also, it is incredibly cheap! If you can’t manage the liver then get it from your greens, with Spinach (49% DV per 100gm) and Turnip Greens (42% DV per 100gm). Fish Roe, Trout and Eggs are another great source for B Vitamins, with Eggs containing all of the B Vitamins.
You can also get specific Vitamin B supplements, with folic acid being one of the more popular ones. If you include the above whole foods in your meals, then you shouldn’t really need to consider Vitamin B supplements (unless you are pregnant).
There you have it, just because you have embraced the Paleo diet or another similar regime involving reduced dairy and grains doesn’t mean you need to be missing out on any of those nutrients key for building and maintaining healthy bones and bodies. Make sure you are covering off the above nutrients with the range of food sources we have set out for you and keep on living longer and living stronger!