WHAT IS PALEO AND WHY PALEO ?
As the name suggests, Paleo stands for Paleolithic. In other words, it’s the diet that the caveman would have been on. The philosophy behind Paleo is as simple as the cavemen that used to be on this diet… Just eat whatever mother nature intended you to eat. If you are like me, a strong believer in a human-nature connection, this diet-philosophy should have something on offer for you as well. Nature offers us everything we need to stay active and healthy. There is no need for human-made chemically enhanced, genetically modified food to keep us alive.
As much as “NATURAL” sounds great and simple, it is not. Today, we are literally surrounded by disease manufacturing food. It makes obtaining a real piece of the healthy product nearly impossible and expensive. And please, let’s not start on how we need all this space and food modification to keep people from being hungry. Will Allen already proved that abundance of healthy organically grown food is too threatening to the powers that control our food supply.
Let’s be real here, all that counts for big food manufacturers is the money. It’s all about the scale of food production with our well-being and health being secondary to it. Cooking practices, production practices, processing of our food… All these degrade the nutritional content of our daily diet and have a negative influence on how we feel and look.
HOW STRICT DOES PALEO HAVE TO BE ?
What seems to be simple, might not be so obvious for an average consumer. Paleo leaves out any food processed by a man. It means that food like potatoes, rice, or oats are out of the menu. Is strict approach necessary ? Even though you’ll find super strict followers, the diet itself is modernized and can’t be taken literally. Unless you don’t mind hunting your neighbour’s cat and eating grass, but still, not all of us can live exactly that close to nature.
Also, the so-called strict followers many times seem to contradict Paleo’s own theory. What true Paleo followers ignore, is that many of the fresh fruits and vegetables forming the basis of the Paleo Diet were created by the same agricultural process that produced cereal grains(so often crossed off the Paleo menu).
My Take On It
It might cross me out from the Paleo membership club, but I will still enjoy food like brown rice, oats or legumes. They can still have a lot of health benefits and as long as you are not affected by allergies and intolerances to some of the ingredients they contain, there’s nothing wrong with them. The whole story on caveman not eating legumes and their unhealthy effects on human body, is silly and at least very debatable.
However, thanks to the extensive program of genetic manipulations, today’s grain barely resemble the original form it used to have, so it might be a good idea to leave some of them out. For example, as much as corn can sound sweet and healthy, GMO obliterated any remnants of healthy corn from the face of the earth.
But, the most important thing is that Paleo ideology seems to work. Even with a couple of divergences, it can be a healthy, balanced diet that does not require from you to count calories or restrict carbohydrates to lose fat and stay lean.
WHAT YOU CAN AND CAN NOT EAT IN PALEO
You’ll need to choose the foods that resemble what they look like in nature. This means that you will primarily eat lean meat, fish, plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. You will need to pick the meat that is lean, this diet is reliant on it. Today meat isn’t as lean as it used to be thousands of years ago. Animals are given very little room to move and often are stuffed with unnatural modified food that results in fattier meat. So choose lean parts, it is important.
The only dairy product in this diet is an egg. It wasn’t very easy for a caveman to grab a wild animal and extract milk from it. Neither Cavemen grew crops, they didn’t know how to process it. Salt was not on the menu and only sugar they had was honey. In other words, cereal grains, legumes, starchy vegetables, and any food that is processed or very high in salt are No!!!
- Fish and Seafood
- Nuts and Seeds
- Healthy Fats and Oils
- SeaSalt and Spices
- Honey, Maple Syrop
- Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Processed Salt
- Vegetable Oils
- Trans Fats
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Highly Processed Foods
PROVEN HEALTH BENEFITS OF PALEO DIET
- Decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer
- Increased immune function
- Improved general feeling of well being
- Improved lipid profiles
- Healthier gut flora
- Better absorption of nutrients from food
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Reduced allergies
- Improvements in respiratory problems such as asthma
- Increased and more stable energy levels
- Healthier looking hair and skin
- Increased mental alertness
- Improvements in those suffering depression or anxieties
- Decreased gas, bloating
- Sustained weight loss
- Muscle growth and increased fitness
- Improved glucose tolerance; increased insulin sensitivity and decreased insulin secretion
LET’S DEBUNK A COUPLE OF MISSUNDERSTANDINGS
Meat Dilemma: Sceptics will shout- risk of kidney disease, osteoporosis, cancer, l-carnitine linked to heart attacks. On the other hand, you will read studies clearly citing reduction in the risk of cardiovascular conditions in groups that have been following Paleo diet. Conclusive research also indicates that cavemen did not suffer from kidney diseases, heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems (apart from blood loss:)
Cavemen did not: Eat processed meat – Toss it in flower and deep fry it – Eat animals fed on genetically modified food, injected with steroids, hormones and antibiotics – Eat genetically modified animals etc. The list of practices associated with meat production goes on and on. Also, people associated with cardiovascular conditions and meat, usually lead the sedentary lifestyle and consume very little fibre, green vegetables and other healthy food that we need to eat along the meat to facilitate healthy absorption of nutrients from it. As I mentioned before this diet might need extra cost and effort to obtain healthy ingredients, including meat from healthily bred animals.
Calcium & Vitamin D Deficiency: Some People say that Paleo diet falls short on calcium and vitamin D because it excludes dairy products. Fish, leafy green veggies, wall-nuts, hazelnuts, all can provide more than enough vitamin D and calcium. For milk lovers, there are some great alternatives to milk, for example, hemp-milk. In fact, calcium balance is more important here than the amount of it. Processed food like soft drinks use the calcium in their digestion, so if you tend to eat or drink a lot of junk, you will need more calcium. By simply excluding the processed food from your diet, your calcium requirements will be much lower. Also, let’s not forget about sunlight which is the main source of vitamin D. Spend more time outdoors.
How Often Should You Eat In Paleo ?
There doesn’t seem to be any rules on this one. Some followers suggest the hunter-gatherer food consumption model in which you pick at and bite on food all day along, the others prefer their meals with longer breaks between them. Intermittent fasting dietary scheduling could be a logical extension of Paleo. Caveman didn’t have a luxury of eating his/her meals every two hours.
I think it would make sense to plan your meal frequencies and macronutrient intake basing it on your lifestyle and fitness goals. For example for someone who is looking for fat loss and has high blood sugar levels, it could make sense to eat multiple small meals(4 or 6 a day). This could reduce the insulin spikes, keep the blood sugar levels stable, and help lose fat. For body weight maintenance you can eat as often as you want. Athletes might have to eat within a few hours before a training session and an hour or so after. They also might like their carbs to protein ratio 4:1 if the session is very intensive.