Book Review: Your Personal Paleo Code by Chris Kresser

Why you’ll read it: You’re curious about the paleo diet but don’t want to go heavy on meat, or you’ve tried paleo but the initial results stopped or slowed.   The verdict: you'll increase the nutrient density in your diet, but it's light on instructions and hand-holding.

Your Personal Paleo Code: the 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life

By Chris Kresser

In one sentence: “My goal is to help people, individual by individual, discover what works for them and keep them from adhering to a dogmatic regimen just because it sounds authentic”.

Key message: Personalisation: no two patients are alike, we all require different dietary solutions.

Why you’ll read it: You’re curious about the paleo diet but don’t want to go heavy on meat, or you’ve tried paleo but the initial results stopped or slowed.

How it will heal you: You’ll increase the nutrient density in your diet, and eliminate items (such as grains) which give you little to no benefit. It should also equip you with the confidence to eat certain foods often cited as unhealthy (e.g.: dairy products) as long as you’ve established you can tolerate them.

What you may learn:

  • Brazil nuts and almonds are high in omega-6, so should therefore be limited in favour of hazelnuts and macadamias;
  • Glucosinolates in maca, when combined with a diet low in iodine, can cause thyroid problems;
  • Far from being vegan sources of B12, spirulina and brewers yeast contain B12 analogs called cobamides, which in fact block the uptake and absorption of B12;
  • Most Americans are deficient in magnesium and it’s difficult to get enough from food, so supplementation is recommended;
  • Calcium supplements may actually increase the risk of hip fractures and heart disease; folic acid supplementation can speed the progression of certain cancers.

Credibility: Kresser, an M.S. and L.Ac (licensed acupuncturist), studied Chinese and integrative medicine at the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College in Berkeley. A clinician who works with patients from a functional medicine perspective.

Recipes: Limited; enough for the suggested 7-day meal plan, with some basics such as bone broth and paleo mayonnaise thrown in for good measure. Sample breakfast: Green Plantain Fritters with Sausage, or Greek Turkey Burgers with Zucchini Noodles for lunch. No photos.

Should you buy it? After outlining his 3-step program (reset, rebuild, revive) and discovering what foods to include/avoid and how to tweak for certain health conditions, readers may wish Kresser would hold their hands through the 30-day reset process, rather than discuss the nutrient density and relative qualities of foods.

Likewise, the critical reintroduction phase of the program could have been made a lot more user-friendly, instead of providing general guidelines. Some kind of food reintroduction matrix and a food/mood diary template in which to note reactions would have both been useful.

There’s also a frustrating amount of useful content left out of the book (recipes and meal plans, guidelines for weight loss, resources on how to properly prepare grains to neutralise toxins) with readers instead being pointed to his website.

A large chunk of the book is given to lifestyle management (the importance of sleep, how to minimise sedentary time) which readers may prefer to have seen devoted instead to fine-tuning their diet, undoubtedly the trickiest aspect of one’s “personal paleo code”.

Overall the book is strong on research but light on the practical tools required to tweak your own paleo diet. A little reorganisation of the contents would have paid off handsomely.

Buy Your Personal Paleo Code online; it has also just been re-released in paperback under the new title The Paleo Cure.