What diet did your doctor order?

by Christina on January 13, 2011

The case for good nutrition is exactly the same as the case for good medicine.

If medication can make a difference in the internal functions of a human being, so can food. It is a serious error to suppose, therefore, that medication can accomplish a desired purpose despite everything else that is taken into the human body, or that the right foods cannot be used effectively to fight disease, whether in combination with medication or without it, depending on the nature of the problem.

In any case, it is reasonable to expect the physician to take a complete nutritional profile of a patient as an essential part of any examination workup.”

~Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness (such a great book!)

I recently worked with a doctor who recommends that his patients go on a low-carb/Atkins/Paleo-type diet. He told them to avoid all carbs (breads, pastas, tortillas, sweets, and sugary fruits like apples) and to eat more fats/proteins (more meat and dairy). When patients find this carb-restriction too difficult, he suggests a gluten-free diet.

He says it works: his patients lose weight and their lipid levels improve. He explained why:

  • The U.S. has a sugar-based diet and this is why we are fat and have diabetes.
  • There are 4 types of food: simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats.
  • Your body uses carbohydrates for immediate energy.
  • Excess carbohydrates are turned to triglycerides and stored as fat.
  • When you do not eat carbohydrates, your body will use stored fat for energy rather than break down protein.
  • Fats and proteins are harder to digest, stay in your stomach longer, and keep you from being hungry.
  • There are no nutrients unique to wheat products that our body needs.

I’m not a meat-eater so I’ve been skeptical of the growing Paleo movement, but my curiosity is growing so I started PubMed-ing to learn more…

  1. A study recently came out comparing the Paleo diet (lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, root vegetables, eggs, nuts) with the Mediterranean diet (whole grains, low-fat dairy products, vegetables, fruit, fish, oils, margarine). They found that the Paleo group was more satiated and consumed fewer calories, and leptin decreased more in the Paleo group (leptin is a hormone that regulates appetite and metabolism; obese people have unusually high levels and are desensitized to it).
  2. This pilot study compares the Paleolithic diet with the traditional diabetic diet over a 3-month period (Paleo is lower in grains and dairy, and higher in fruits, veggies, meat, eggs). They found that the Paleolithic diet improved diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors more than the diabetic diet (improved HbA1c, triglycerides, blood pressure, weight, BMI, waist circumference, and HDL).

I’m wondering what a vegetarian Paleo diet would look like (lots of vegetable fats and proteins, but would I still be so hungry?). Has anyone tried this or be willing to try this?

Love this! From Evolve! Campaign

The point is: we need to know more! I was glad to see this doctor talking with his patients about food… we all need to be experimenting and questioning and finding out what works.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

joy January 13, 2011 at 7:23 am

Have you seen the raw food documentary with Norman Cousens, about healing diabetes?

You can watch it on Youtube!


Christina January 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Hi Joy,

No, I haven’t seen that! I will look for it (if you have a link please share!)


joy January 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Ah, it looks like the full version has been taken down. Here’s the trailer (PS, all participants were able to stop their insulin and blood sugars returned to normal with a raw vegan diet!)



Christina January 13, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Wow what a powerful video. In 30 days of a raw vegan diet they went from insulin-dependent diabetes to normal blood sugars. Every doctor should see that.



Chris palmer January 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I’ve always believed that apples are good for you (“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”). Is that no longer true? Other than this puzzle about apples, your blog post was fascinating and persuasive.


Christina January 13, 2011 at 11:16 pm

I agree – how can an apple be bad for you?! The reason it’s on the list with the breads, sweets, and other carbs is because they have a relatively high sugar content and so can raise blood glucose levels. However, fruits also contain fiber, which slows and controls the absorption of sugar.

I think healthy people (like you!) who do not have blood sugar or diabetes issues, can (and should) eat all the fruits and apples you want.


San January 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Try http://www.Marksdailyapple.com, it’s an amazing blog with lots of info and in the forum you find vegetarians and former vegans to answer your questions.

In my opinion Paleo is the way to go and grains are evil. I’ve seen the positive effects of Paleo on my on body and I love it.

Enjoy your weekend


Christina January 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Thank you for reminding me of that blog — I used to follow it and liked the articles, but to be honest I ended up unsubscribing because of too many meat-heavy recipes. I’m glad to hear you say there are vegetarians/vegans among his readers — I am re-subscribing to the blog and will look out for them!


joy January 14, 2011 at 12:01 am

Christina, do watch the film if you get a chance. Raw vegan with no refined foods is what got ALL these people off their insulin (except the one who cheated and drank alcohol). There’s a wonderful surprise at the end as well… I don’t want to give it away, but it was absolutely amazing!

Super healthy + super ethical diet. The way to go whenever possible! Something so good for you it can reverse diabetes AND save animals and resources is something to feel really good about! My husband and I cried watching it, it was so moving.


Sara Mays January 22, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Our nutrition class at Chiro school uses two research institution’s websites for our ‘required readings’. They are really great and explain the current evidence for the everyday person. The Linus Pauling Institute and Harvard Public Health. I think you would really love them as much as I do. They will always have the best up-to-date info too for busy doctors to pass on the right info to their patients. The Harvard one even will e-mail you regular updates.



Christina January 22, 2011 at 10:43 pm

Sara – thank you for these – I was just looking at the websites and these are such great resources! I will bookmark them and use them. Thank you!!!


Jackson January 28, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Gorillas are not vegans. If vegans get up-tight about honey (not that all of them do, but societally they seem to) how could any of them consider an animal that intentionally eats insects to be “vegan?” Wishful thinking.

But anyway, as far as a vegetarian paleo substitute… it would be just that, a substitute. The paleo diet runs explicitly on the assumption that humans evolved to eat a diet of largely meat, specifically large ruminants (like cows, deer, etc.). Paleo diets generally avoid a lot of vegetable fats… what we know as “vegetable oil,” for example, is soybean oil, and paleo diets usually avoid legumes, especially soy. Coconut oil would be a good substitute, and olive oil and avocado oil can be used if they’re not heated, but other than that there isn’t much you can add.

If you are talking about ovo-lacto vegetarianism and not veganism, you can add dairy and eggs. Eggs are -great- for this, butter and ghee are great fats, a lot of people use heavy cream and hard cheese. The reason is that paleo diets are looking for high fat foods that have few carbohydrate.

I wouldn’t call an ovo-lacto vegetarian version a paleo diet, but one could do it based on the same principles. In the case of veganism, I’d say “no,” but again, getting rid of grains and sugar is a good start.


Christina March 26, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Hi Jackson, I really appreciate this comment, thank you for this.

In general, “paleo diets” do not include butter and ghee and cheese then, correct? Seems that wouldn’t really be “paleo.” This would be a difficult diet to follow if one does not eat meats (unless you eat a lot of nuts and a lot of vegetable proteins and fats, but from where?).


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