Eileen Laird is the founder of Phoenix Helix and author of A Simple Guide to the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, which we reviewed here. Check out her Podcast, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
1. What got you interested in the Paleo/AIP lifestyle?
Developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I was health-conscious before that – I ate organically, exercised regularly, but honestly paleo wasn’t even on my radar. When RA came into my life fast and furious, disabling me within 6 months, I scoured the internet looking for hope and found the AIP.
2. What excites you most about writing/blogging and helping people get healthier?
Autoimmune disease rolls through people’s lives like a wrecking ball. I love giving people hope again and helping them reclaim not only their health, but their joy in living.
This isn’t some article persuading you that the ketogenic diet is the best one in existence and that you should go try keto today or you’ll be missing out on some great life-changing phenomena! But, if you have been considering a ketogenic diet for weight loss, then it behooves you to learn the facts and figure out if you’re one of the people that a keto diet could benefit.
I’ve often gotten asked what the difference between a Paleo and Gluten-Free diet is, and so in this post, I hope to get across to you the main differences as well as why I think Paleo is generally better than GF despite some similarities.
There’s also an infographic down below – please feel free to pin or embed it on your own website.
I’ll start by quickly defining each diet, and then the section after that will list the main differences between Paleo and Gluten-Free.
Generally, most people who are on a gluten-free diet just avoid gluten. So you’ve probably seen in health food markets or even in your local supermarket tons of packaged foods labeled gluten-free (or GF). What that means is that they don’t contain the protein called gluten, which is found in grains like wheat, barley, rye.
Often, instead of wheat, these gluten-free products contain other grains. So, gluten-free bread may be made from rice flour instead, and to make up for the taste difference, gluten-free packaged goods often contain additional sugar, preservatives, coloring, seed oils, etc.
I know this is a generalization since many diets, including Paleo, Primal, and most versions of low carb or keto are also gluten-free diets. And healthy kale chips can labeled gluten-free too.
But, gluten-free just means no-gluten. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything else. And while gluten is probably problematic regardless of whether you’re celiac or not, it’s not the only food that could be problematic to your health and weight.
The Paleo diet started off as a diet based off what humans ate in prehistoric times – the premise was that if humans have been thriving on those foods for so many millennia, then we must be adapted to eat it. And foods like wheat have entered our food systems very recently when you compare it to how long humans have been in existence.
Often, the Paleo diet is compared to that of more recent hunter-gatherer tribes, who ate grain-free diets.
In the strictest form, a Paleo diet eliminates all grains (not just the gluten-containing grains), all legumes (including soy and peanuts), all processed sugars, all seed and vegetable oils, and all dairy.
In more practical forms, Paleo eaters use what our ancestors ate as an initial model and then also look at the modern science behind a food to evaluate whether its health benefits and practical concerns outweigh its health downsides. That’s why foods like white rice, potatoes, and foods like ghee, raw milk, and gluten-free tamari soy sauce are considered OK by most Paleo eaters.
Lastly, while Paleo is considered a diet by many, it does also have a lot to say about the importance of sleep, de-stressing, and exercise.
Here’s an infographic to illustrate the difference between a Paleo and Gluten-Free diet – feel free to pin this and share it. If you’d like to embed this infographic on your website, please use the embed code below in order to credit us for our work.
Just a quick note – I know there are many different versions of a Paleo or a Gluten-Free diet, so the differences listed below are generalizations.
1. Gluten-Free focuses on whether a food contains gluten, where Paleo focuses on whether a food has been eaten by our ancestors for a long time.
Paleo advocates for the elimination of grains, legumes, dairy, processed sugar, and seed oils. For a more detailed list, you can download our Paleo diet food list here.
2. Paleo focuses on more than just food, but also aspects like sleep, de-stressing, and exercise.
It’s generally described that people in the very distant past slept more (during hours when there’s no sunlight and no electricity), weren’t as stressed (because there weren't so many modern day stressors like mobile phones, social media), and people walked and lifted heavy stuff a lot. Because Paleo incorporates these concepts, Paleo is often described as a lifestyle rather than a diet.
3. In general, Paleo is more geared toward weight-loss and healing a variety of health issues, whereas Gluten-Free is focused on helping those with celiac disease.
While many people also go on a gluten-free diet for weight-loss, in general, Paleo is more known for being a weight-loss and anti-inflammatory diet.
4. In general, a Paleo diet contains fewer carbohydrates than a general Gluten-Free diet.
This is because Paleo cuts out most foods that are naturally high in carbs, e.g., grains and legumes. However, as Chris Kresser points out, “Paleo does not equal low carb."
While a GF diet often helps those with celiac disease, some find that it’s difficult to heal their gut when they’re also introducing other foods that could be causing damage to their gut.
And often Paleo also helps people who aren’t diagnosed as celiac with a variety of symptoms.
An important note to celiacs: While Paleo eaters stay gluten-free most of the time, many of them don’t have huge incentive to avoid small amounts of gluten in foods like a sauce accompanying a dish at a restaurant or a stir-fry dish that uses regular soy sauce instead of gluten-free tamari sauce.
For example, I really enjoyed eating at Mums, a restaurant in Edinburgh that serves gluten-free sausages. However, when I recommended it to a gluten-free friend, I realized that I had no way of guaranteeing that the food there wouldn’t be contaminated with gluten since I don’t feel any symptoms from small amounts of gluten. Luckily, he was pretty knowledgeable and tested it out himself and found that he also didn’t suffer any symptoms. So, while Paleo is gluten-free, it might not be as gluten-free as you might need it to be.
In the end, you can make every diet healthy or unhealthy. You can eat Paleo brownies laden with almond flour and honey daily or you can eat GF bread made with rice flour, and both would not be great for your health or weight. Or you can eat a gluten-free diet filled with fresh vegetables and grass-fed beef and be healthier than most Paleo folks.
What I’m getting at is that whether you label your diet and lifestyle as Gluten-Free or Paleo doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you actually put into your body.
Whether you label your diet and lifestyle as Gluten-Free or Paleo doesn’t really matter. What matters is what you actually put into your body!
Personally, I find sticking to a Paleo lifestyle helps me eat healthier as it means I can automatically say NO to pretty much all prepackaged food. This just decreases my likelihood of eating junk. And if I do want something sweet like a muffin, I have to take the time and effort to make it myself.
Images: Copyright (c) expressiovisual, minoandriani from Fotolia
Did you know that it takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter? That’s a lot of peanuts concentrated into one jar. So if you’re eating a lot of peanut butter, it’s best to know just how healthy it is for you.
Cashews are a fascinating food.
Botanically, they are a master of disguise.
They split in half like a legume, but they are not a legume.
They look sort of like a nut and grow on a tree, but they are not a tree nut.
And the red juicy pear looking thing that grows on the same tree as them looks like a fruit, but it’s not actually a fruit.
From a culinary standpoint, they are also fascinating.
Sure, you can grind them into a flour like other nuts. You can also use them whole in various dishes. But what’s most interesting is the fact you can grind them and mix them with water to form a cream cheese like substance that you can then put on top of pizzas or use as cake icing! It’s one of the foods loved by both vegans and Paleo-eaters!
I hope you’re also getting fascinated about this fake-nut…
One of the questions I frequently get asked from people just starting a Paleo diet is “why do I feel so weak when I start Paleo?”
I often forget just how refreshing and delicious peaches are, and they are fantastic in smoothies like this one. The avocado and nuts in this recipe also add in more fat to slow the absorption of the sugars. And if you want to add in some extra protein after your workout, choose a whey protein powder that doesn’t have added ingredients like this one.
Nuts have been a favorite of low carb dieters for a long time and now they’re popular among ketogenic dieters. Nuts are a quick and easy snack that you can purchase even at a gas station, they provide that nice crunchy texture that many people find missing from a low carb diet, and nut flours can be used to make a variety of baked goods that can be used as bread-substitutes.
This is a guest post by Melissa Gavencak.
In my household, I’m Paleo, the dog is Paleo, and my husband isn’t.
Whatever baby Genevieve chooses to be we’ll support, as long as she understands our house philosophy regarding food. The majority of what we eat is grown, gathered, hunted, or caught by us or someone we know.
Every year we try to get that majority closer to 100%, but it takes time, money, some readjusting and patience. My husband spends 16-18 hours at a time offshore fishing for our food. Does he love it? Is he putting food on our table? Does he have control over our food from the time it is caught until it enters our mouths? Yes to all those questions. But, he also misses us. It takes away from family time. It is costly. And, sometimes a fisherman does come home with an empty boat. There are years when we have success with our garden, and years when 15 tomato plants (yes, I know, nightshade family) yield two eight ounce mason jars of sauce, but we get by. Around mid-winter I get sick of venison, but it works out to $2 per pound after processing, and we know where it has been from the point of being killed to warming in our crockpot.
Knowing what it took to get our food on the table is of major importance to our family. We want to know how the animal lived and died to feed us, and how our veggies, fruits and even herbs were grown. If nothing else, I hope my daughter learns this from us. Respect of food, all food, and how it got to the plate.
I know some of you are into CrossFit, HIIT, Spartan racing, weight-lifting, and various other intense forms of exercise – so I came up with this raw egg shake especially for you – it’s packed with protein, fat, a small amount of carbohydrates, and a dash of caffeine (which you can omit if you prefer).
As always, when making anything with raw eggs, be careful of food safety – I would wash the egg shells and then wash my hands after cracking the eggs. I would also make sure to use very fresh eggs, and I wouldn’t use any cracked or dirty eggs. I know I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to food safety, but I really hate food poisoning so that little bit of extra effort seems worth it to me.
It’s not easy to start the AIP (autoimmune paleo) protocol. Various foods like bread, cereal, nuts, seeds, tomatoes, eggs are all of a sudden off the list of foods you can eat, and you’re left wondering what on earth you can still eat!
So, we’ve created this handy guide to help you navigate the AIP diet and heal your body as quickly as possible.
You can also download this list as a printable PDF to stick on your fridge or to take with you when you go shopping.
Items in parentheticals are typically harder to find and not often used in most recipes. If you live somewhere where those items are easier to find and you want to give them a try, then by all means purchase them. Where applicable, items are linked so that you can purchase them on Amazon.com or elsewhere online.
Sea salt + flavored salt (e.g., garlic salt, lemon salt)
If you’re looking for the AIP Food List, then click the button below to download it:
Canned fish and seafood (packed in brine or olive oil)
Herbal tea (rooibos, mint, honeybush, chamomile)
Other teas (black, white, green)
(Sweet potato puree)
(Chicory root “coffee”)
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It’s the Achilles’ heel in my diet. While I’ve never been a big fan of milk or white chocolate, dark chocolate has been my trusted companion since I can remember.
Luckily, dark chocolate is OK on a Paleo diet in moderation, but what about on the Paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP)?
Short Answer: Probably Not
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but chocolate is generally not considered autoimmune-friendly.
You’re probably thinking there’s some loophole because I used the words “probably not” and “generally,” but I don’t want to get your hopes up. It’s really best if you don’t eat chocolate on the AIP diet, and here’s why:
Sarah Ballantyne says the following about chocolate in The Paleo Approach:
“Chocolate is extremely high in phytic acid and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and contains caffeine, all of which are reasons to avoid it on the Paleo Approach.”
In fact, Sarah herself experienced dramatic improvements in her lichen planus when she cut out chocolate from her diet.
So, what’s the loophole then?
There’s no specific link between chocolate and autoimmune conditions or leaky gut. And most less strict versions of the Paleo autoimmune protocol (like the one in Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution) don’t mention anything about chocolate.
So, should you eat chocolate on the Paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP)?
As with anything in life, the choice is yours. My thoughts would be to eliminate it initially and then to introduce it and see whether it affects your autoimmune condition or not.
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If you’re like me, then you might want to delve beneath the surface and understand why something is the case. So, when someone tells me that chocolate isn’t autoimmune-friendly, then I want to know why!
So, what’s unhealthy about chocolate?
1. Chocolate contains added sugar and non-Paleo ingredients
First, there’s the obvious, most chocolate is made into processed desserts that contain a bunch of unhealthy ingredients like sugar, milk solids, etc.
But what about pure dark chocolate? Ok, read on!
2. Chocolate is high in phytic acid.
Phytic acid is a substance naturally present in chocolate as well as various other plant-derived foods like nuts, seeds, beans, and grains. Phytic acid can prevent us from absorbing many of the nutrients in the meal we’re eating. For that reason, it’s often called an anti-nutrient. So, eating chocolate as a dessert can mean that you don’t absorb as many of the minerals from the rest of the food you ate that meal.
This is problematic in those with autoimmune conditions as they likely already have impaired digestive issues and often already have mineral deficiencies. So they wouldn’t want to then not absorb the few minerals they do take in with their meal by eating chocolate as a dessert.
3. Chocolate contains caffeine
According to the USDA, 1 oz of dark chocolate contains around 23 mg of caffeine. Compare this with 1 cup of coffee, which has around 100 mg of caffeine. However, 1 oz of dark chocolate does also contain 227 mg of theobromine.
So, what’s wrong with caffeine?
Caffeine has been linked to rises in cortisol levels and increased inflammation. While there’s no definitive science suggesting caffeine is good or bad for our general health, Sarah Ballantyne suggests limiting caffeine intake for those on AIP “mainly to support normalization of cortisol levels and rhythms.”
What’s wrong with theobromine?
Honestly, I don’t know because there’s been very little research done on it. Currently, it seems people think theobromine is a better version of caffeine.
4. Chocolate is high in Omega-6 fats.
1 oz of dark chocolate contains 402 mg of omega-6 fatty acids and 32.8 mg of omega-3 fatty acids. This skewed omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is probably not that great for you unless you’re eating plenty of high omega-3 foods to balance it out.
Chocolate is easy to overeat
I probably don’t need to show you any science for this one – I’m sure you’ve experienced it yourself!
Chocolate just makes me feel bad
Ok, it doesn’t make me personally feel bad, but I have heard anecdotal stories about people feeling worse if they eat even dark chocolate. Jeremy is one of these people as is Sarah Ballantyne.
Chocolate contains lectins
Eileen suggests in this article that chocolate contains lectins, which can cause increased intestinal permeability as well as other issues. However, I have not found any scientific literature suggesting that the processed cacao we eat in chocolate contains lectins (the cacao plant and bean itself may contain lectins).
Most chocolate contains soy lecithin
If you look carefully at the ingredients list of most chocolate bars, you’ll find soy lecithin listed at the end. Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that is used to produce a smoother chocolate texture. While soy lecithin is not particularly healthy, it’s also not that unhealthy and you can find a fair number of chocolate brands or 100% chocolates that do not have soy lecithin as an ingredient if you want to avoid it.
So, as you can see, dark chocolate isn’t all that bad, and it definitely has a fair amount of beneficial properties (like antioxidants and minerals). However, since some people do feel better when they eliminate chocolate from their diet, it’s worth giving it a shot!
What can you eat instead of chocolate then when you’re on the Paleo autoimmune protocol and craving for a bar of delicious chocolate?
Carob is a great substitute for chocolate.
Carob doesn’t contain caffeine and has a fair amount of vitamins and minerals. However, when you buy carob, make sure to buy pure carob powder (check the ingredients list to make sure carob is the only ingredient). Carob chips will contain non- Paleo and non-AIP ingredients unfortunately.
This carob powder (which you can get on Amazon.com) is 100% pure carob.
Then use the carob powder to make your own AIP “Chocolate” treats like some of the recipes listed below.
Make sure to pick a good chocolate when you reintroduce chocolate into your diet.
Most chocolate is filled with non-Paleo (and obviously non-AIP) ingredients. For example, milk chocolate contains a ton of sugar and dairy products. So, you should avoid those regardless. Same goes for white chocolate – there’s usually a milk product as well as lots of sugar in them.
So, if you’re reintroducing chocolate into your diet, then pick a dark chocolate (over 85% if possible).
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This is another recipe that my dad especially enjoys. It’s lightly sweetened with stevia and has a great flavor to it with the unsweetened cacao powder and unsweetened shredded coconut. When it first comes out of the oven, it’s pretty soft still, but you can let it dry out for longer by leaving it in the oven at a very low temperature or just by sitting it out. Or don’t bother waiting and just enjoy immediately.
There’s also some chia seeds in this recipe to help everything gel together better.
One of the things I’ve discovered traveling through Southeast Asia is that many of the delicious traditional recipes are often Paleo and AIP (often without intending to be) or can be made so very easily.