Why Wednesday: Why Not Substitute?

Hello and welcome to Why Wednesday where I break down the why’s behind the practices of Paleo to give you a deeper understanding in order to make your own decisions about food. Because simply pushing Paleo for the sake of a diet does not promote lasting change. You have to get involved, go deeper, and own your health and your transformation. Otherwise, it’s just another diet and just a diet WILL FAIL at some point.

Simple Substitution

A problem I see with many beginner Paleo-ers is that they simply substitute every gluten-containing food they enjoyed before with a gluten-free substitute. So instead of wheat flour, they use almond meal, rice flours, or some other gluten-free flour. Instead of choosing healthy, they may be choosing just as bad or worse. Let me explain.

The Standard American Diet is not the epitome of health. This diet consists of frequent fast food, lots of breads, pastas, cakes, and cereals. Everything is breaded. Everything else is fried in some hydrogenated vegetable oil. And we are reaping the consequences.

Paleo’s Purpose

The point of Paleo is to heal the body.

Most people on SAD have metabolic derangement, meaning they have more than a few pounds to lose, may experience hypoglycemia, their hormones are out of whack, high blood sugar, and they feel like crap often. This is the result of a high carbohydrate and inflammatory diet (and probably high stress, poor sleep habits).

The point of Paleo is to eat foods that are metabolically advantageous so that they work with the body and not against it. Resetting hormones, training the body to use fat for fuel instead of exclusively carbohydrates, and healing the gut are vital to your success with your desired results.

They way to do this is:

  1. Remove inflammatory foods
  2. Lower carbohydrate consumption, at least for 30 days.

By removing inflammatory foods, gut healing is promoted and you begin to feel better. And although there is significant freedom in how much carbohydrate you consume on Paleo, it is important to go for 30 days on lower carbohydrates to allow your metabolism and hormones to reset. This is where the initiation period comes in, a period of 3 days to 2 weeks.

What Substitutes Are

Gluten-free substitutes are nothing more than high carbohydrate, usually preservative-containing, shadows of what you are used to. Some may taste great and others okay, but most are disgusting.

Replacing your regular diet with gluten-free substitutes only fuels rapid-fire carbohydrate metabolism instead of trains your body to run off of fat.

They are also a way of not having to really alter your thinking about food. If you can simply pull out the gluten-free lasagna noodles or brownie mix then you aren’t really breaking any poor behaviors.

Substitutes also may prevent your gut from healing because they contain inflammatory lectins that we are trying to avoid. Many gluten-free flours are made with rice, potatoes, or legumes, so they can still pack a hefty punch on the gut.

Substitutes have a place in Paleo, but not as a staple.

The Place for Substitutes

Where should you use substitutes? For splurges, social events and other occasional uses.

The important part is to listen to your body and how your gut handles substitutes. The only way to assess this somewhat accurately is to pull them out of the diet for 30 days and then re-introduce and see what happens. Then you can play with frequency.

Some folks can eat almond meal 3 times a week with no deleterious effects while others gain fat if they eat it too frequently.

I personally do not handle coconut flour the greatest, but I only know this because I listen to my body and actually make decisions based on how I feel after eating a certain food. If a substitute makes me feel like crap, out it goes. *Crazy, I know. Someone actually wanting to feel good often.*

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that food should promote vitality and well-being, not detract from life in any way. Although gluten-free substitutes are technically much better options than gluten, I do not recommend replacing your current diet with a version of gluten-free-Paleo. Some gluten-free flours and packaged foods are just as irritating as their gluten-counterparts, so it is important to eat clean for at least 30 days.

Gluten-free substitutes have their place and that is occasionally. If you aren’t seeing the results you’d like, I’d suggest pulling out the gluten-free stuff.




  • Laura

    Reply Reply July 27, 2011

    Sugar, obviously, is the hardest thing for me to eliminate. I feel terrible after eating sugar, like really, really terrible, lethargic, yuck! It really is like crack though, because I always go back! Boo to sugar…

    • gerilyn

      Reply Reply July 27, 2011

      I hear ya! And once you start, there’s no stopping until your tummy’s distended or you just want to throw up!

      Clint drank tons of HFCS (like 4-6 bottles of CheerWine) on Sunday and had a slight migraine today, which I will of course contribute to sugar… and stress.


  • Angie

    Reply Reply July 27, 2011

    I honestly haven’t tried any substitutes, but I have cheated a few times and I did pay for it with bloating and indigestion. However, in the last month and a half, I’ve lost a whole pant size, even with my slip ups. Paleo-Life is good! ๐Ÿ™‚

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