“Can I Cheat on My Paleo-type Diet?”

        Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS       September 11, 2015


evolution rI hope you haven’t reached the point where you discovered Paleo and were motivated to change your life and then thought, “Can I cheat on my Paleo-type diet?”


Removing unhealthy food choices and replacing them with healthy ones is a lifestyle change. It’s not a fad diet that comes to an end allowing you to return to old eating habits. As a matter of fact, if you only had eliminated the acellular carbs and foods that have a high carbohydrate density, you would have greatly reduced your food cravings, and your body would be healthier, and your mouth would be healthier. But, to answer the question, “Yes, you can cheat”.


Of course, you need to define what cheating means.


As Mark Sisson and Dr. Loren Cordain have stated in their writings, the 80/20-rule or the 85/15-rule work. That means, if you are eating the foods that are part of the nutrient-dense lifestyle 80-85% of the time, then 15-20% of the time you could go off track and still be OK. That off track time would be considered cheating or maybe just indulging off the grid.


I am motivated – perhaps beyond most people’s desire to be motivated. I am 68 years old as I write this. At this point in my lifestyle change, which only began in 2013, I am a fat burner. That means that I usually consume less than 150 grams of carbohydrates a day (without actually counting grams but by making healthier food choices), and for the most part I have no carb cravings. I can effectively burn stored fat for energy throughout the day. In addition, I generally skip a formal breakfast because I am not hungry and start my first meal after the noon hour and end my last meal of the day by 8PM (intermittent fasting). But, most people are not like me. I definitely get that.


Interestingly, there may be some actual benefits to cheating or indulging off the grid.


Break the Monotony


For some, it can be difficult staying the course of eating healthy. Sometimes that burger with all the dripping juices and perfect bun sounds awesome. Other times your buddies and you just are out and about, and a pizza with a beer would top off a perfect evening. So, you join them by indulging off the grid. That’s OK. It is a break from what may appear to you to be the monotony of sticking to a strict food regimen. Just don’t do it often. But for some people, especially those with autoimmune diseases, allergic reactions, and damaged guts, just an occasional indulgence could cause unpleasant and serious reactions. Personally, I do not cheat like this.


The Hormetic Effect


Hormesis is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. That’s why plants build up phytonutrients in their cell structure to ward off potential pests and disease. The stress created externally will build strength internally. The plant becomes stronger and more resistant, and the human body can become stronger and more resistant. Some research (Here, Here, Here) has demonstrated that eating some bad foods at times might improve overall health. But, again, don’t make this a routine excuse because of some research to indulge off the grid.


Restart Your Metabolism


If you had reduced your carbohydrate intake significantly and for a prolonged time, you actually could have depressed your metabolic rate and stalled your weight loss. When you eat a big meal especially high in carbohydrates, you could trigger specific hormones to restart your weight loss goals.


My Personal Thoughts….


If you have been motivated to make a lifestyle change, then you probably are not thinking about actively cheating. You occasionally may want to eat foods that do not have the ideal nutrient density that you would otherwise eat, and that’s OK. You may go out with the guys or gals and decide you will indulge in a way that you normally would not do, and that’s OK. These are the exceptions and certainly not the rule. I can go to almost any restaurant, even fast-food types, and find something on the menu that I will eat. The important thing for me is this: I know what I won’t eat, and everything else is OK.


If you have started a healthier lifestyle, think about where you are now mentally and physically compared to where you were when you started. I am a perfect example of a person who has embraced a new lifestyle, which has changed my life. How could I ever consider going back to the way I was? How could I entertain the concept of cheating when I know that this Primal lifestyle has saved my life?


Best of luck pursuing your new lifestyle.

Carbohydrate Density –
A New Way of Thinking About Food

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS Nutritional Periodontist
November 19, 2014 [printfriendly]



evolution rIan Spreadbury wrote an article in 2012 that changed the way we think about food. He described a theory for what is causing obesity in the modern world. Through a thorough search of the medical literature, he proposed that the food of modern societies that has been causing obesity and many degenerative diseases including periodontal disease is acellular carbohydrates – a highly dense form of carbohydrates. I discussed acellular carbs in my blog titled “What Went Wrong.
The conspicuous difference between carbohydrates in healthy, whole foods and those in unhealthy foods is that the weight of the total carbohydrates in healthy foods (minus the fiber) is 23% or less of the total weight of the food. Our gut and its healthy resident bacteria never evolved to digest highly dense carbs. The end result from eating highly dense carbohydrates has been serious derangements in many biologic pathways in our bodies.
So what is a healthy way of eating? Although it is very important to eat the right kind of foods, it is even more important NOT to eat the wrong kind of foods. The research suggests that the elimination of dense carbohydrates can go a long way in creating health and preventing disease – including periodontal disease. A diet lifestyle that is compatible to a healthy carbohydrate density is a Paleolithic diet consisting of animal products from head to tail, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. With rare exception, these foods have been shown to have a maximum carbohydrate density of around 23%.
How To Determine Carbohydrate Density
The term “carbohydrate density” means the percent of the food mass that is carbohydrate minus the fiber component. You could calculate the carbohydrate density of any food in which you are interested. It is simple to calculate. Just divide the grams of carbohydrate in food excluding grams of fiber by the total gram weight of the food to get a percentage. The carbohydrate density increases as more non-fibrous carbs are packed into a given quantity of food. As I stated, a healthy carbohydrate density is about 23% or less. Eating foods that have a higher density than 23%, would put more stress on your metabolism and potentially lead to the degenerative diseases seen in modern societies eating processed foods. A website where you can find grams of carbohydrates, grams of fiber and total grams in a food is HERE.  Here is how to use this website:
• Go to website page.
• Enter the specific food you are calculating in the space provided on the top of the web page and click “GO”.
• Various preparations for this food will appear. Click on the preparation you desire.
• Note the Grams of Carbohydrate per 100 grams of food, and note the Grams of Fiber per 100 grams of food.
• Subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of carbohydrates to get the non-fibrous grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams of the food. That will be the carbohydrate density of that particular food.
Modern food processing is, unfortunately, very good at boosting carbohydrate density. Here is a list of some foods from low-density to high-density carbohydrates:
Sampling of foods with carbohydrate density ≤ 23% (from lowest to about 23% excluding fiber):
• Chicken
• Beef
• Lamb
• Pork
• Mackerel
• Eggs
• Cheese
• Kale
• Turnips
• Macadamia nut
• Carrot
• Onion
• Watermelon
• Orange
• Apple
• Kiwi fruit
• Leek
• Parsnip
• Sweet potato
• Ginger
• Pistachios
• Potato
• Banana
Sampling of modern foods with carbohydrate density > 23% (from 23% to the highest excluding fiber):
• Cheeseburger
• Milkshake
• Meat pizza
• White rice
• Rye bread
• Vegetarian pizza
• Nachos
• Multigrain bread
• French fries
• Bran cereal
• Popcorn
• Muffins
• White bread
• Potato chips
• Bagel
• Granola bar
• Fruitcake
• Cookies
• Whole wheat cereal
• Pretzels
• Rice cakes


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