Primarily Paleo

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What One Food Should We Give Up to Improve Our Health?


Paleo Donut

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A client recently asked if I were to recommend one food for someone eating the standard American diet to give up what would it be. Without pause, my immediate answer was gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in specific grains- namely wheat, barley, and rye. There is a high incidence of sensitivity to these grains due to their inherent indigestiblility. Gluten also is highly inflammatory contributing to autoimmune issues, joint pain & swelling, and it tends to be addictive especially when paired with refined sugar. Gram for gram, all grains whether containing gluten or not also have less nutritional value compared to other foods like animal products, seeds, and produce. The standard American diet often contains these grains, along with sugar, preservatives, and added chemicals, at every snack and meal. Sadly, gluten containing foods are such a large part of most people’s lifestyle that without it, they have no idea of what is left to eat. By giving up this one thing, it would open up a whole new nutrient dense opportunity and could greatly improve the way one feels.

What is one food you think should be given up by the average American? I’d love to hear your comments.


  1. My answer to that question is sugar. Two reasons: 1. I think it is probably the biggest player in the diabesity epidemic that is killing Americans. 2. Everybody is sort of aware already that it’s unhealthy, so you don’t have to start the conversation with the whole “But so and so says that whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet.” Save that conversation for once they quit sugar, feel better, and now have some buy-in to what you’re saying. I’d say #2 is processed foods, #3 is gluten.

  2. Thanks for your comment Jules. Those are valid points and a nice way to ease into making changes. I was definitely being more aggressive in my approach. Also, this client was mostly concerned about artificial sweeteners (gasp) which are are arguably worse than sugar in my book.

  3. I was going to say 1) gluten then 2) sugar. Looks like you guys beat me to it 🙂

  4. how is Gluten different from other starches that, in some low card diets, are restricted?

    • Gluten is a protein in some grains: namely wheat, barley, rye (and often oats due to processing) For those following a lower carb diet, they are restricting foods that have or contribute a high carbohydrate count which can be all grains (including rice), potatoes, beets, carrots, squash/ sweet potato and bananas or other tropical fruits like mango & papaya. So my response to avoid gluten was that is is inflammatory and damages the gut lining. Plus most gluten containing foods are processed and have added refined sugars. The low carb approach is more about weight loss, or having the body run on ketones (fatty acids produced when the body uses it’s own fat as fuel)

  5. Is there gluten in rice? And likewise, is rice paleo?

    • HI Huoy, Rice does not contain gluten. There are two types of grains: grass and gluten. Rice belongs to the grass family. However, rice is not Paleo because our paleolithic ancestors did not cultivate it. They did most likely eat some foraged wild rices or grains. These foraged grains are not genetically the same as those available to us today, and not eaten in the same quantities.

      • Where does potato fit? I know sweet potatos are sometimes referenced as “paleo” ok. More specifically Taco Time Tater Totes 🙂

        • Russell, Potatoes in general are not considered Paleo. They raise blood sugar quickly and are highly hybridized- meaning they are not the same starchy tuber our ancestors ate. Yams/ Sweet potatoes are mor eliek those ancestral starchy tubers and are ok as long as you are not trying to lose weight as a goal.
          Anything from a fast food restaurant is not cooked using a heart healthy oil and is best to be avoided and as another rule, if it doesn’t look like a potato anymore I’d probably not eat it.

  6. Pingback: Primarily Paleo: The Top 3 Benefits of The Paleo Diet | Primarily Paleo

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