The Paleo Diet
So you want to be a cave man.
What is the Paleo diet and is it right for you?
The Paleo diet works on the very simple premise that we should eat like our ancestral Paleolithic great, great, great, great (you get the idea) granddaddy Cavemen. Our ancient ancestors thrived as hunter-gatherers. Although it’s been a really long time, our genetics haven’t changed that much since then.
This means we ate and thrived on anything we could hunt or find – meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, seasonal and local veggies, and seeds. (Sorry, the grains, pasta, cereal, Trans-fats and processed trash will have to go!)
One of my favorite experts on Paleo, Robb Wolf, compares our evolvement to a 100-yard football field. “The first 99.5 yards are how long Homo-Sapiens spent as hunter-gatherers. We became REALLY good at hunting and gathering and our bodies adapted to that lifestyle. That lasted for thousands of years. That last half-yard represents our species after the agricultural revolution, where our diet has shifted (but our genetics haven’t).”
So what’s wrong with that shift? Essentially our bodies just haven’t caught up with the changes in our diet.
The answer is sugar.
An increase in agriculture has led to diets high in grains, or, dietary carbohydrates, also known as high Glycaemic load foods (e.g. sugars and starchy foods such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes). These work with the hormone insulin to ‘switch off’ fat burning, reduce lean muscle and increase fat gain.
It becomes virtually impossible to lose fat if you have raised insulin levels.
Often people are quite surprised how much hidden sugar is in food. Around 200g of pasta can equate to 1 cup of sugar
The following characteristics of Paleo diets will help to optimize your health, minimize your risk of chronic disease, and lose weight.
- Higher protein intake supporting production of lean muscle and balancing blood sugar
- Lower carbohydrate intake and lower glycemic index – Non-starchy fresh fruits and vegetables represent the main carbohydrate source Almost all of these foods have low glycemic indices that are slowly digested and absorbed, and won’t spike blood sugar levels.
- Higher intake of, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phytochemicals, you won’t be eating as much rubbish processed foods, and will instead be feasting on fruits vegetables and grass fed organic meats.
- Higher fibre intake – Dietary fibre is essential for good health. Not only helping to keep us full and our bowel regular, fibre also helps escort cholesterol from our bodies. Non-starchy vegetables and fruit contain vast amounts of fibre.
- Moderate to higher fat intake dominated by monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with balanced Omega ratios. First of all, you should really eliminate any vegetable oil high in polyunsaturated fatty acids; they’re the ones that will end up destroying your health. Examples of those include corn oil, canola oil, peanut oil, soybean oil and grape- seed oil.
- Less risk of leaky gut , cutting out grains and dairy takes pressure from the function of our gut and reduces inflammation
In a nutshell-
- Grass-produced organic meats
- Fresh organic fruits and veggies
- Organic Eggs
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthful oils (Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)
- Cereal grains
- Legumes (including peanuts) and Soy including Soymilk and cheese
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Refined vegetable oils
A quick note on grass fed meats, think of it this way, feed a human on a diet high in grains/sugars and give them little to no exercise. They are going to become fat and disease ridden.
Similar thing happens to our meat, grass fed animals have the opportunity to move around and eat a healthy natural and foraged diet. Grass-fed beef may have some heart-health benefits that other types of beef don’t have. When compared with other types of beef, grass-fed beef has: More antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin E, Less total fat, More heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, More conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that’s thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks. I know what I’d rather eat.
Common Paleo Mistakes
This is not a license to eat your body weight in bacon and processed meats. A bad diet is a bad diet no matter how you package it.
Eating meat makes you uncomfortable? Then this diet is definitely not for you, not everyone’s constitutional type or ethics are in line with Paleo.
You still need to be sensible and eat a clean diet full of fruits and vegetables, they should make up the majority of your meals, add in good quality organic protein, nuts and seeds and enjoy!