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paleo not for everyone?


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Alright, some disclaimers before I begin:

1. Sorry if this topic has already been discussed, but since it wasn't anywhere on the first few pages of back-posts I decided to create a new one.

2. I'm not attacking anyone here, so don't feel like that. I have an open mind about paleo and see most of its logic.

3. This is long, but try to read most of it before you make a point that I've already addressed, just for brevity's sake. :)

So. I've been reading and watching lectures about several "diet" philosophies (paleo included) for a good month now, trying to make some educated decisions for my life and fitness goals. Last night I was watching a lecture online from Gary Taubes (author of Why We Get Fat and Good Calories Bad Calories) and my husband was curious about what I was watching. I explained some of Dr. Taubes' claims about refuting the whole "calories in calories out" equation, etc. etc, and this led to a heated debate about weight loss and in turn, paleo practice.

Some quick facts about my husband, 24, that you should know:

He's training for his 3rd Ironman this year (finished in 11hrs 10mins both previous times, trying to beat the dreaded 11:10 this year), has raced over 10 other triathlons and single marathons/other races, and is in great overall shape/fitness. Not sure of his exact proportions, but he's probably around 10% BF (maybe lower) and has a lean figure - just a typical runner's frame pretty much, but he's great at the swimming part so he's got good general upper body strength too.

Also... he likes junk food. Not much of a shocker, most people do.

However... most people who like junk food are overweight or in bad shape. These are the people I would recommend paleo to. Or, to people who have pains, diseases, vices, other sorts of ailments in addition to excess fat.

My husband's biggest problem with paleo is: why would he change to something that doesn't allow him to eat the food he likes, when he has suffered no adverse consequences thus far?

My attempted rebuttal: it's about overall improvement - making you ever better than you already are. Also, you never know how your current habits could affect your future health.

His maintained opinion: I'm just fine. I'm in a great shape, no complaints, can complete an Ironman, have little body fat, and don't need to change. Ever. I should be able to enjoy a bun with my hamburger if I darn well please. ("darn well please" was not used)

Another point I'll make that has me still unconvinced that paleo is for everyone:

My brother, 30, has been a personal trainer (making big bucks, aka, he's awesome at it and knows his stuff) for over 10 years. He has 6% BF and is probably the healthiest person I know. He is constantly talking about how he feels like he's still 18 - and he has buckets of energy to prove it. He eats healthy (obviously, or he wouldn't be so fit), but I know for a fact that he doesn't subscribe to paleo eating. What gives?

Basically, I'm just wondering: If you're already fit, what's the draw for paleo? If it's "so magical" (again, not attacking you), why do some people succeed without it?

Thanks for your input!

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The draw for paleo is that it's got high-quality food, with a lot of vitamins and minerals. Your intake of trace elements will be more balanced. For most people it also cuts weight simply due to the fact that paleo food is nutrient-dense, so you eat less calories until you're full. This means that paleo isn't magic.

Paleo is a good diet, but that is not to say that paleo is the only good diet. For instance, you can get your calories and macros (protein, fat, carbs) from any food (with some extra restrictions like avoiding white flour) and then take a multivitamin+fish oil and as long as you keep track of what you eat (don't overeat, get enough protein etc. etc.), this will work just as well as paleo. Yes, this means you can eat junk food, drink diary, have legumes and all that, but your intake of both macros and micros (trace elements) is balanced, so it's a healthy diet. The downside of this diet is that you have to track stuff. It's still a very viable approach.

As for your husband, he's probably outtraining his bad diet. I know, I know, "you can't outtrain a bad diet", but you can if you have the work capacity for it and your diet isn't too bad.

Yes, that's calories in, calories out. This is a basic rule, not a fact set in stone. For instance, the body expends a lot of energy when digesting protein. For this reason, some researchers have suggested that the calorie count for a gram of protein is taken down to 3.2 rather than the 4 that's the standard now. You can also take in account insulin response, but fact of the matter remains that caloric restriction is the only proven way to lose weight. If you're not restricting your calories (whether directly by monitoring intake or indirectly by something like paleo), you won't lose weight.

That is why every diet that works, runs a caloric deficit. You may not feel like it, but if you're losing weight, you're restricting calories.

Bottom line, paleo is good because it adheres to the rules of a good diet and is a simple approach. It's not the only good diet, however. It's certainly not magic.

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You can call me Phi, Numbers, Sixteen or just plain 161803398874989.

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Basically, I'm just wondering: If you're already fit, what's the draw for paleo? If it's "so magical" (again, not attacking you), why do some people succeed without it?

Aside from a very tiny # of people, almost nobody had been eating paleo up until a couple years ago. How did people succeed in the PPE? (pre-paleo era)

There is a subset of people who it is actually very good for. It is a hypoallergenic diet. I would wager that a fair % of people with some food allergy or sensitivity don't realize they have it. You don't get a blood test at birth and your parents conviently given a list of things you are allergic or sensitive to. They have to figure it out; unless reactions are severe it can be really hard to tell if there is a food sensitivity. Most people with a mild food allergy probably don't know they have it. Until they try the paleo diet, remove the allergen from their system, and whallah, magic. Paleo is unlike any diet I've seen before. The true beleivers (not those giving it a try to lose a couple pounds) are fanatics. Why? Because it is magic for them. Fixing problems they have through a basic eating scheme is life changing.

If you do have no food allergies though, whether or not you are already fit, it is just another fad diet waiting to be replaced by the next big thing that will help people magically lose weight without calorie counting. At some point maybe people will just figure out if you are trying to lose weight and not calorie counting, you are doing it wrong. Probably not though, no money to be made off that, nothing to excite people.

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*Ding ding* spatzcat

A paleo diet works well for "most" people because "most" people eat like crap. It gets them off all the processed junk that got them into the position of needing a new diet in the first place. They'd likely have the same success with any other diet that didn't consist of excessive junk.

Your husband and brother are not "most" people. They actually live healthy.

Don't think of it as a fat loss or diet. It's simply a "cleaner" diet. Of which fat loss is usually a side effect. Some guys I know that were already in phenomenal shape switced to a diet that could be considered kind of "paleo", and found they perform better. Maybe it's all in the head, but how you feel is really all that matters.

Don't fix what isn't broken.

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I'd say that even without paleo that your husband n brother are both miles ahead of the general population in terms of their diet, excellent activity levels aside. They'll also maintain their current level of shape... as long as they continue exercising the way they do. The minute one of them gets permanently injured and has to settle down, but doesn't change their diet accordingly, the fat will pack on faster than you can say 'donuts, anyone?'

Not just that, but people don't easily get to 6 or even 10% body fat without some excellent genetics to back it up. Your average allergic-to-everything, sits on their bum all day person will probably never see results like they have.

Not that I'm a huge fan of paleo myself or anything, but the two points I'm trying to make are 1) paleo is a helluva lot better diet than what your average person eats and 2) advanced to elite ironman athletes and trainers are NOT a good model for how the average person will respond to one diet or another.

Why must I put a name on the foods I choose to eat and how I choose to eat them? Rather than tell people that I eat according to someone else's arbitrary rules, I'd rather just tell them, I eat healthy. And no, my diet does not have a name.My daily battle log!

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I'll chime in on the hypoallergenic diet side. For me, Paleo was a natural progression from the gluten free diet I was already on, because I'm gluten intolerant. I've discovered that since turning to the Paleo diet, I also feel better when I'm not consuming dairy, and I have less cravings for bread and wheat-based items when I'm not eating rice, white potatoes or corn. That being said, I do occasionally eat corn products (we fry fish in corn meal), but I make sure it is gluten free.

My husband doesn't have any of the issues I do, but he's adhering to Primal-ish (he's chosen no bread or cheese, no rice or other grains, still consumes other dairy) to see if it will help his Triglyceride and Thyroid levels.

I'll also agree with the 'you don't know what you don't know' argument. Drew Brees was already a famous NFL quarterback with amazing skills when a team nutritionist tested him for allergies/sensitivities and found out he's sensitive to gluten, dairy and peanuts. Now he's even better when he sticks to a stricter diet than before. There are other stories of elite athletes that found that they perform better without wheat and other grains, so just because your husband is healthy doesn't mean that a trial of Paleo won't make him even better, but it doesn't mean that it will do anything at all either.

The old believe everything; the middle aged suspect everything: the young know everything.

~Oscar Wilde

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1) Of course it's not for everyone - nothing is for everyone.

2) Being an elite athlete and being the healthiest you can be are not mutually inclusive. Take Mario Cipollini for example - professional cyclist. By any measure an elite athlete. And he smoked. If you have a gluten intolerance for example, even a mild one - paleo can be beneficial, even if it isn't necessary.

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I'm not going to chime in on the hypoallergenic side (it's already been covered) but I will say that a lot of people have deranged metabolism (and by metabolism I'm referring to insulin/glucose metabolism) and Paleo really helps sort that out for some people. This can result in such 'magical' effects as not feeling tired all the time, sleeping better, etc, all the way to suddenly being able to build muscle when it seemed impossible before, doubling your flexibility (pre-diabetic syndromes result in insane reduction in flexibility), and reduced auto-immune symptoms.

Talking with endocronologists, many of them wish they could prescribe something like a paleo diet but they are so certain their patients wouldn't follow it that the thought of saying "You shouldn't have any processed grains at all" doesn't even occur to them.

Anyway - that's my take. If you're eating good, fresh foods already with tons of protein, AND engaging in high cardio exercises, having some carbs won't do you much harm (in my opinion). Unless you have an allergy that you don't know about... However, if you're like me and a billion other folks, not getting a lot of exercise each day, etc - there's no reason to have those carbs in the form of grains and sugars, and they will in fact, do you harm over the long term.

If my choice was run triathalons or stop eating grains, I would do the latter (and have!)

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Paleo is definitely one of the better "diets" out there. Meat+Vegetables are kind of hard to screw up, but it's funny how the first thing was how it isn't magic. It's an overreaction to people praising it on the forum, because apparently being happy with something and expressing that is the equivalent of saying something is magic. I hear Wingardium Leviosa is the Latin translation. ;)

Go ahead and try it if you want, Paleo is better than the crash diets most people do, but if you like bread or are not comfortable with giving it up, then it's probably not for you, nor your husband. :) If you do try it, I recommend tracking calories. It's the best way to know if you're running too much of a deficit (or make sure you aren't in a deficit if you aren't supposed to be in one).

With enough willpower and dedication, you'll succeed with whatever you pick. Best of luck with whatever you choose. :)

-Not a Paleo person.

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A lot of interesting discussion here!

I would like to share my anecdotal experience:

When I did the Whole30 challenge (very strict Paleo for 30 days), I went from eating mostly real foods, with maybe 1-2 servings of dairy, grains and/or sugar a day to eating only real foods with none of these other things. For me, there was no magic. I don't have any health problems or intolerances, and the lack of change in my energy levels and healthy feelings indicated to me that paleo is not necessary or a miracle-worker for me, personally. But it did help me lose weight without tracking, and I would still recommend it to people in a similar situation (want to lose weight, whether they have health issues or not)

I've also lost weight before with religious calorie tracking and restriction, eating lots of grains and dairy.

I'd also like to emphasize the point you made about your boyfriend and how his diet may affect his future: I have known lots of people (men especially) who eat whatever they like (to varying degrees of healthiness) and remain fit until they hit about 30, and then even if they continue with the same activity level and diet their fitness level goes down the drain. So, perhaps one draw for someone who is young and fit would be that they may not be able to maintain their fitness as easily in the future, and making a positive change now might make it easier on them.

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Carbs are not grains.

Thought I'd point that out.

Oh, you knew what Roos meant! :P

Thanks peeps, yeah, overall I agree - don't fix what's not broken, mileage may vary, it's not for everyone, etc. but also that mainly it's for people who have not ruled out food sensitivity quite yet (which, for me, means that it's still on the table...) or for people who haven't gotten the hang of eating healthy, real food, and need some guidelines to keep themselves accountable... I hope most of you would agree with this synopsis..

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My long and short: sure, paleo is for everyone. We, as a species, are meant to be eating real food. Paleo is about eating real natural foods, not processed or post-industrial modern foods. There really, in my mind, no debate there. You CAN eat other stuff, sure, but there is no need. We lived off of paleo foods for a very long time as species.

that said, not all versions of the paleo diet are the same. just as there was no one human diet before agriculture, so is there no one paleo diet now. Think about what this diet covers? All meats and animal products, all fruits and vegetables, nuts, and a few other things. that's really almost everything we think of as "food" even by American standards. So yours might be high in meat. or it might have no meat. or it might be mostly fish and vegetables. or it might be tons of roots and tubers. It might be high carb, low carb, or anything in between. There is no wrong way to do it as long as it works for you and who you are and what you're doing.

Sounds like your husband is a perfect fit for a high calorie high carb paleo.

Also as for why he's seen no adverse affects thus far .... that's a big can of worms. Here's a few ideas.

a: most people have no idea whether or not they feel good. If you've had low level inflammation your whole life, how would you know the difference? He won't know till he tries it.

b: some people are just genetically gifted. They can eat anything and bounce back like a super hero. That is not a compelling reason to eat junk, in my opinion, but it's their call.

c: Just because you feel fine now does not man you will feel fine forever. When i ate a common american diet I felt fine until I got diverticulitis. then I went paleo and not only did that go away, but a lot of other symptoms that I never even knew existed went away. Things like morning lethargy, hunger pangs, reoccurring headaches, blood sugar crashes, strange and odd pains, aches, and feelings that were just stray crap in my body. All of that got better. Yes, I lost weight, but the most impressive thing is that I got well.

Anyway, the truth is that paleo just means eating natural foods. And it is not rocket science to know that eating natural foods is good for the body. Also, going paleo doesn't mean you never eat the other foods again. being paleo isn't like being a vegetarian. they don't come take your card if you have a chicken breast. Sometimes I want pizza and so I have it. I just don't do it very often. Most of my food is natural paleo food. I think I am pretty normal for a paleo type.

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I don't think Paleo is necessarily for everyone. But it can be a good base to start with, and then you can tweak it depending on what your needs are (endurance athlete, weightlifting, etc.) And I think that's true because of its emphasis on eating real food. But I don't think strict Paleo is the one and only way, and there's nothing magical about it. Just eating clean in general, cutting out processed/sugary and artificial foods, will go a long way toward improving health. Some people may do better if they cut out gluten, and/or dairy, while for others those foods are not an issue.

Our bodies can tolerate a lot of nutritional abuse up to a certain point. And your husband likely isn't seeing the effects of his bad diet because of all the exercise he does, and the fact that he's only 24. Eventually his body will lose the ability to repair the damage done by poor nutrition. Insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, etc. are the result. What are his bloodwork numbers like? What does he think his health will be like in 20 years if he continues along the same path?

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This can result in such 'magical' effects as not feeling tired all the time' date=' sleeping better, etc, [/quote']

When you've been dealing with chronic fatigue and sleep disorders your whole life, that can feel pretty magical, I'll tell you what.

What's this about, though? Is this about eating right or is it about being right?

Your husband's 24 years old and clearly has good genes. He could probably eat garbage scows off the Hudson River and be in pretty good shape for a few more years. To paraphrase someone I can't for the life of me remember, there are very few active 24-year-olds who will ease off on the burgers and milkshakes to keep a sedentary 40-year-old out of the cardiac unit. And, in fairness, this is about the only time in his life that he'll be able to eat a bad diet and not suffer the effects.

If you don't sell him on the virtues of eating real food and laying off the processed crap, give it time - at some point his cardiologist or his bathroom scale will. When he starts looking into it, he's going to find that pretty much every diet (as in food-eating system) with any sort of results behind it boils down to this: Eat real food. Eat less of it than you think you need. Eat mostly meat and vegetables. Go easy on the dairy and eat grains sparingly if you eat them at all. If he really has an issue with The Paleo Diet, he doesn't have to call it that, but at some point he's probably going to wind up eating something that looks an awful lot like it anyway.

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It's not magical.

For me, the draw is that it's an easy way to think about food that allows me to eat around a health issue without driving myself insane. I have meniere's disease and I have to restrict my sodium intake. Eating paleo(ish)/primal allows me to do that without a lot of meticulous counting and pulling out a nutritional app on my phone every time I sit down to eat. Along the way it also did a ton of good around my binge eating problems... but that was mostly due to eliminating artificial sweeteners.

But I will say, from the downhill side of 35, it's easy enough for a 24 or 30 year old male who has been active all their lives to "succeed" at being lean without eating well. They will not continue to function at a high level without eating better quality fuel. I'm not saying "paleo" is for everyone, but a framework of eating clean, whole, real food IS for everyone. Your husband and brother are eventually going to need to up their game, nutritionally speaking, if they want to continue where they are.

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Bottom line, paleo is good because it adheres to the rules of a good diet and is a simple approach. It's not the only good diet, however. It's certainly not magic.

Quoting this for simplicity and succinctness. It's not magic, it's not for everyone, but it works well for many people(particularly those with food allergies/intolerances/autoimmune issues).

I'm in the "eats mostly paleo, no major obvious food intolerances" category myself. However, I try to keep an open mind and read the various research that's out there - and am certainly willing to shift my diet given demonstrated health benefits to alternative approaches to eating.

If you do have no food allergies though, whether or not you are already fit, it is just another fad diet waiting to be replaced by the next big thing that will help people magically lose weight without calorie counting. At some point maybe people will just figure out if you are trying to lose weight and not calorie counting, you are doing it wrong. Probably not though, no money to be made off that, nothing to excite people.

I half disagree here, though I do agree with part of what you've said. I agree that people eating paleo strictly for weight loss in hope of a magic bullet will eventually drift away over time - because there is no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss. The reason people(some of them, anyway) can not count calories on paleo and make it work is because eating a diet oriented towards meat and vegetables with minimal sugars and added fats/oils is much harder to overeat on than a lousy diet full of junk - though these principles can be applied to non-paleo diets as well, if one avoids sugars/refined carbs/oils.

Paleo does seem to be evolving, and while I believe it will eventually shed some of the people looking for miracle weight loss, I think some of the underlying principles will endure. As catspaw said in a blog post some time ago (I'm paraphrasing here) "paleo is not a religion. It's a set of guidelines you can use to decide how best to feed yourself". I believe aspects of paleo theory such as keeping n-6 intake to reasonable levels relative to n-3, avoiding foods that can cause inflammation even in individuals who are not explicitly allergic, and putting more emphasis on the quality of our animal proteins are things that are likely to persist and gain greater traction in the nutritional community, even if the "Paleo" brand does not.

"Restlessness is discontent - and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man-and I will show you a failure." -Thomas Edison

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Many of you are claiming "excellent genetics" and "it'll catch up to them eventually" and "they're still young." While I agree that it helps that they're still young males (the category who I believe has it "easiest" when it comes to health and fitness) and that it might "catch up" to them... well... part of this was my fault in saying my husband eats junk food all the time and not fully explaining that he eats a relatively healthy diet (just would prefer to eat more junk and sometimes gets away with it) and not fully explaining that my brother eats like a saint pretty much (though not by paleo standards). And as for genetics - maaaybbee my husband on his mom's side... but my brother - no way. He built his own castle and excavated years of bad nutrition habits from our childhood.

Here's my main problem if any of you feel like further clarifying as best you can:

Allergies aside, how the heck is rice or wheat (both come from the ground, both not overly processed unless you just shop like a dope - maybe I'm missing something here) or milk (again, comes from nature and only processed to the point that we can safely ingest it, much like the reason meat is cooked) NOT considered "real food?" I absolutely understand sticking mainly to the outer edges of the supermarket... but avoiding grains and dairy will possibly never make sense to me. Call it what you will - conditioning that I'm just having a hard time breaking through, naivete/ignorance about food production, or just stubbornness... I don't know. I just can't justify taking out these things beyond the claims that they cause unnecessary inflammation.

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Some things are so simple that they seem complex. I think they just exercise a lot. :)

Grain is pretty much what you try to avoid... We cultivated it only a few thousand years ago, and haven't built up the necessary tolerance and we function better without it, so the theory goes. We didn't eat berry and bug sandwiches until we managed to spear something for the day. ;) And plenty of people drink milk and eat rice/potatos on Paleo. Paleo is a concept rather than a strict dietary plan. Some people just take the concept and make what they see as a good diet with it, and just call it Paeo.

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Yeah, I find the rice/beans and milk avoidance on Paleo weird as well.

I believe aspects of paleo theory such as keeping n-6 intake to reasonable levels relative to n-3, avoiding foods that can cause inflammation even in individuals who are not explicitly allergic, and putting more emphasis on the quality of our animal proteins

Those are general nutrition concepts, especially the first one. As I see it, Paleo is about one thing and one thing only: eating primal. It doesn't concern itself with the biological factors like insulin spikes, inflammation and the like.

Quare? Quod vita mea non tua est.

 

You can call me Phi, Numbers, Sixteen or just plain 161803398874989.

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Paleo is for everyone, but everyone is not for Paleo.

I love it because it works for me. It's ridiculously easy to follow. I perform better on it, I look better on it, and I feel better on it.

Lots of people are living perfectly happy, healthy, and long lives not on paleo.

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Yeah, I find the rice/beans and milk avoidance on Paleo weird as well.

all three are not going to kill you but don't do all the time foods. gray areas. in a simple "its 3am and im about to go to bed" explanation:

rice = potential allergens/no nutrients (filler food)

beans = lectins

milk = lactose (yes, some people have a mutation that lets you tolerate lactose)

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I think that there's something to the genetic heritage and/or blood type side of finding what foods work for your body and what doesn't. I don't think any kind of diet is a one-size-fits-all solution. You have to do your own research and experimentation to find out what foods your body performs and looks it's best with.

The old believe everything; the middle aged suspect everything: the young know everything.

~Oscar Wilde

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to quote an article i read:

The Paleo Diet promulgates the diatribe against carbohydrates. To set the record straight: whole grains (i.e. complex carbohydrates) do not make people fat or sick -- assuming you stick to whole grains. Refined grains on the other hand are stripped of nutrients and fiber and are often enriched with a mere fraction of the nutrients they once possessed. Whole grains are an important part of a long-term, healthy diet. They provide ample doses of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

paleo is a belief system, a diet with rules and lists of do's and dont's. that doesn't mean it's right. it does however have some great points that anyone can draw from. don't eat processed food. don't put crap in your body.

If you are not lactose intolerant, then drink milk. Grains in moderation are fine, if you are not intolerant to gluten and don't have some wacked out disease. moderation of anything is key here. ie, your dinner would be best served if half the plate wasn't carbs, but was a balance with meat and veggies.

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