I was under the impression after reading the Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain that adding salt, and using dairy was out. Was there another version that said this was ok?
Dr. Harris sums up Cordain's faulty epistemology well:
His "paleolithic principle" differs from mine in that he seems to start with "not available in the paleo period = bad" and then looks for harder science to support it. My method looks first at medical evidence and metabolism, then looks for which (not necessarily all) neolithic agents are likely to account for the diseases of civilization.
Salt is something that animals have craved ever since they lost their gills, grew feet, and began to live on dry land. Adding salt to your food is unlikely to be a problem unless you are deficient in potassium and magnesium.
Butter basically has none of the milk sugars or proteins that are questionable. Dairy is one of the more nutritious fats.
He might have marketed the name, but I think Cordain can be wrong about a lot of things paleo (c.f. his erstwhile aversion to saturated fats).
Personally, I think butter is very paleo. The only reason to avoid it would be if you had a significant reaction to the minimal traces of dairy protein in it, which excludes all but the most severe of dairy reactors. In my opinion butter is even preferable to animal fat in a lot of cases (for grain-raised animals certainly) as a source of saturated fat, since you get more SFA and MUFA without the omega 6 and appreciable amounts of vitamin A, K2 and butyrate.
Obviously paleo diets contained salt, so whether "adding salt" is much more of a pragmatic question than a question of paleo dogma. Most people will be getting far more salt than potassium and far more salt than they need without adding any, so adding any is probably undesirable. How much harm it causes will depend on factors like how much potassium you're getting and whether your body is in an otherwise inflammatory/hyperinsulinemic state (resulting in relative sodium retention/potassium loss).
The part of dairy that isn't paleo-friendly is the lactose (i.e. sugar). Whole milk contains a mix of fat, carbs, and protein. Fat free milk is essentially sugar & protein water. Butter is created by collecting just the fat (along with some water content and negligible milk solids).
Butter wasn't used in paleolithic times but has a fatty acid profile that is compatible with a paleolithic diet. As such, I consider butter one of the gateway fats for paleo. Heavy cream is similarly produced by collecting the fat and removing the lactose and so I consider heavy cream to be a gateway fat as well -- great for producing sauces. Likewise for some cheeses though you have to read the labels carefully (or buy locally produced, all natural stuff). ith any of these, it comes down to how much of a purist you wish to be versus making some compromises to meld paleo with the modern lifestyle that you are used to.
Regarding salt, that's a good question and something that I haven't personally been convinced either way on yet. It seems that modern hunter-gatherers don't go out of their way to find salt sources. The important factor is the balance between sodium and potassium. With enough potassium and water, you shouldn't have to worry about sodium. Some high carb foods like potatoes and bananas are major sources of potassium and if you cut these out of your paleo diet without replacing them with paleo-friendly potassium sources (for example, avocados and broccoli), you could end up hurting that balance. It wouldn't hurt to seek out some potassium rich sources to regularly consume in which case salt shouldn't be something you'll have to worry about.
Good questions. I have been reducing salt and on the fence about butter. Otherwise don't eat much dairy.
On salt, OK maybe it isn't 'harmful' per se but I encourage you apply the same process as eliminating other foods for a while, then try it again. About two weeks ago I consciously cut down on my salt intake and now things with salt, even things I used to really like, seem way too salty! The line about 'salt makes things taste good' is only a matter of perspective. If you start getting used to the sweet clean taste of no salt (whether it is meat, fish, veggies, even nuts) then things with salt start tasting unnecessarily assertive, sharp and almost bitter and that's with very good quality sea salt. I am also starting to think that the sodium/potassium relationship may be at the root of health. Haven't done a lot of research on this, but high potassium / low salt meals feel really invigorating so looking into this a bit more. Here is just one article among many:
Basically the relationship between these two minerals is important for the life of every single cell in the body. We don't really know the effect of piling on salt at every meal.
On dairy I hear you, butter is very tempting. Tastes good, easy to digest fat, many good qualities and cheap source of calories per pound. If you want to make an allowance for it that is your choice. But any dairy just cannot be considered paleo as hunter gatherers would not have kept animals around in pens for their milk; the only animals that give milk were domesticated. Were Native Americans seeking out pregnant buffalo and killing them for the milk? Not that I know of. It was all about the meat and fat.
Yes I know dairy is the thing everyone debates, I think in part because it is so addicting! Try the same thing, try for a few weeks without then add back in and see. Personally I really notice a mucus reaction and foggy head with cheese, butter a little less in this regard. But after a few weeks without (but plenty of lard, pork belly, duck fat, eggs, fatty fish and fish oils) even any dairy seems strange. When you think about it dairy is food for babies and that is that. Yes people who like their dairy will find ways to rationalize but you just cannot get around the fact that that is what dairy is really for, and after the babies grow up they are no longer drinking milk.
A small number of people are apparently sensitive to high sodium intake and should lay off the salt shaker. For everyone else, I don't see any problem with salt -- your body will eliminate what it doesn't need, and if you've gone from SAD to paleo your total overall sodium intake is probably way way down anyway (processed food has astounding amounts of sodium).
For butter... some people are better off without any dairy, some should avoid milk and cream but do okay with butter and hard cheeses, some people tolerate it all just fine. After you've otherwise been eating clean for a while, it's worth doing a little experimentation to figure out which category you're in.
As I understand Paleo, it is just the blueprint and open to interpretation. As such, salt is essential to making things taste good. Commercially produced salt is also a great source of iodine, which can be a problem.
In addition to the other comments, since going paleo intrinsically means cooking at home close to 100% of the time, the amount of salt intake is much lower than a life of processed and restaurant food.
Because of this, I'd say don't worry about the salt. For the most part we can tell when we've put/eaten enough salt.
I use salt and butter sparingly. I'd use more regular butter if I weren't intolerant of casein. Love the stuff.
Some of us here don't strictly adhere to Cordain's Paleo diet or some of the other Paleo-style diets. I tend to favor the "Primal Blueprint" approach of Mark Sisson. It works very well for my health needs and my food interests. What we all have in common for the most part here is that we reject conventional wisdom regarding food, and we don't eat grains/beans/sugars. But butter and other dairy, and salt, are individual choices, imo.
Salt is naturally occuring in many places, we have a natural taste for it even so far as to have a taste receptor for it, it is essential throughout our body for healthy functioning, and the research against is just as pitiful as that against saturated fat and meat. Gary Taubes also did one of his research papers on salt and came to the same conclusion as I did. The vast majority of people seem to have no problem eating as much salt as they please. Because we really don't know what the paleo people ate exactly, it is hard to say how much salt they had in their diet. Probably, there were areas were salt was readily available and consumption was high. Other areas may have had to trade for it or do without. Certainly, the salt trade is a very old commodity market. Anyway, I suspect it is AT LEAST as natural for us as things like alcohol, chocolate, and coffee, so I just don't worry about it. If they ever come up with some decent research to show me otherwise, I will listen, but so far, I just haven't found a reason to waste my time worrying about salt.
As for butter, some people who have bad milk allergies may react to it. I think most people are probably fine with it though. I think it is important to consider that we don't know exactly what the paleo people ate or how much evolution has occured since that time and surely there were considerable variations across the globe. That is why the most likely road to successful eating is to always be open to learning and new information and to consider common sense, genetics, logic, and good research altogether when deciding what is probably best. Eating paleo should not be a religion.
Another thing I have noticed is that fat/carb/protein research is not the only field of endeavor where pisspoor research has happened. The longer I live, the more I have learned to always question and investigate mainstream assumptions based on their true merits and not on the words of mindless 'experts' who are just parroting what previous mindless 'experts' have told them even though they don't even really understand what they are saying half the time.
I think butter and salt are reasonably clean for a paleo diet. Im not saying Cordain was wrong about these things, because i do believe that the consumption of dairy (think of milk/yoghurt) should not have a place in the paleo diet. Butter on the other hand wont influence the idea behind it that massively.
Same goes with salt. Salt can be added in my opinion, just do not overdo it.
Basicly, it comes to this: Use your head. Dont overdo the consumption of either one, and you should be fine.
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