The Paleo Diet mimics the food groups of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. And our ancestors consumed anywhere from 19-35% of their calories from meat, seafood and animal products.
Not surprisingly, protein, specifically grass-fed animal protein, is a staple of The Paleo Diet. Today’s humans, in comparison, get about 15% of their dietary calories from protein.
Yes, protein is great for you - IF your body can digest it and assimilate its nutrients. Protein must first be broken down into amino acids to be bioavailable. So it is important Paleo dieters recognize that animal protein is considerably more difficult for our bodies to digest when compared to plant protein.
We sat down with our own Julia Fuller, Nutritional Counselor & CNHP at Pure on Main in Greenville, SC, to learn more about the resulting health risks and ways to support your body’s digestive processes.
The Risk Of A Diet High In Animal Protein
“It’s common that I will see undigested protein come back in a blood test for meat eaters,” says Fuller, who offers blood cell analysis as a service at Pure on Main. This is because of the sheer amount of energy it takes for our bodies to digest animal protein, combined with the fact that most people today (due to hyper-processed foods and the fact that we are born with a defined amount of enzyme potential that we use up over time) have some degree of enzyme deficiency.
This buildup of improperly digested protein molecules in the blood can cause blood cells to become “sticky” leading to blood clots, high triglycerides and other cardiovascular complications and disease. It also reduces circulation in the bloodstream, which can result in lethargy and headaches. These undigested proteins may also form uric acid crystals, which can collect in the joints and cause pain.
Additionally, the digestive process itself is only one of the pancreas’ part-time jobs, the other being insulin production. Eating large amounts of animal products causes the pancreas to work harder and spend more time on enzyme production. This is the reason that some studies have linked diabetes to eating meat.
Plants: Nature’s Perfect Enzyme Package
Hunter-gatherers had access to meat and vegetables. What they didn’t have were today’s food processes that remove naturally occurring enzymes in their food.
Organic is key here. When most people think “organic” their thoughts turn to respecting the land, humane treatment of animals and no pesticides. But there is another reason that organic food is important - it retains the key enzymes that we need for the proper digestion of food. “Did you know that the little stickers on your apples mean something?” remarked Fuller. “If the code on your sticker starts with a 9, that means no irradiation or other processes have been performed on your produce: it’s organic.”
Unfortunately, many fruits and vegetables, to meet the demands of consumers who expect fruit to appear unbruised and perfectly shaped, undergo a process called irradiation.
Irradiation is the application of ionizing radiation to food. It extends the shelf life of foods by reducing insects and microorganisms. But the process also depletes needed enzymes that naturally occur in the food - enzymes that we need to digest the food.
3 Ways To Offset Digestive Risks On The Paleo Diet
If you are currently on, or are planning to go on The Paleo Diet, there are easy ways to offset and minimize the risk of poor digestion due to the potential increase of meat in your diet. Here are three simple ways to improve digestion and fully enjoy the health benefits you seek from going Paleo.
Consume Lots Of Organic Fruits & Veggies As Part Of Your Paleo Diet - While many Paleo cookbooks use meat as the main entree, it’s a myth that all Paleo meals must always include meat. A large part of the Paleo diet is eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Ensure that you eat more plant food from fruits and veggies than you do from meat, and you’ll improve your health and digestion!
Take Plant-Based Enzymes To “Scrub” Your Bloodstream - “Enzymes on an empty stomach act like roto-rooters.” says Fuller. Taking plant based enzymes on an empty stomach breaks down any undigested food already sitting the in bloodstream, cleaning up the “junk” that shouldn’t be there in the first place. This give you a clean slate for better digestion come meal time.
Take Plant-Based Enzymes Before Eating Meat - Enzymes can be your much-needed sidekick to a Paleo diet. Allegany Enzymes are plant-based and break down 150,000 units of protein, helping meat eaters to achieve more efficient digestion and use less of their natural enzyme potential (you only have so much natural enzyme potential in a lifetime). This allows the body to redistribute this energy, avoiding the “post meal slump” and tiredness and preventing gas and indigestion. Visit our Allegany Enzymes product page to learn more!