In the recent months, there has been more and more exposure and talk of the Paleo Diet. So I’ve decided to further investigate this new diet craze; what it is, what you can eat and the thought behind it all. It is supported by documented scientific evidence and by real-life improvements, even triumphs, of people winning their personal health battles.
What is the Paleo Diet?
It is based on the simple understanding that the best human diet is the one to which we are best genetically adapted. Paleo is also referred to the caveman diet, or the hunters and gatherers diet. It corresponds to what was available in any of the ecological niches of pre-agricultural human, i.e. cavemen. Studies suggest there is increasing evidence that a Paleo diet or Paleo lifestyle based on lean meat, fish, vegetables and fruit may be effective in the prevention and treatment of common Western diseases. Researchers have documented the Paleo diet will not only decrease body fat, but also lower risk for health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancers as well as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Chronic illnesses of this era could be a direct result of Americans poor eating habits.
What can you eat?
Your diet should include meals that are high in protein, moderate in fat and relatively low in carbohydrates. You can eat all the lean meats, fish and seafood you want. Eating generous amounts of unsaturated fats is encouraged; this means fat from olive oil, avocado or nuts are all acceptable. Eating a decent amount of vegetables, cooked or raw, is highly encouraged. However, starchy vegetables like peas, corn or potatoes are frowned upon. If you do choose a starchy vegetable, it can be a sweet potato- but seldom suggested. Your other carbohydrate sources are from fruit. All nuts except for peanuts are allowed as well. The food that is absolutely prohibited includes cereal, legumes/beans, dairy, grains and processed foods. This eliminates two major food groups from your diet. In addition, sugary drinks, alcohol and artificial sweeteners are all off the menu.
Other guidelines for the Paleo diet suggest eating only when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. You also don’t need to worry about counting calories or portion control, and it is actually suggested to skip meals of you are not hungry.
So, where do you go from here? Should you eat like a caveman? Despite the strict requirements, there are some people who eat like a caveman and experience weight loss, more energy and better sleep patterns. Although these claims may be true, times have evolved since the cavemen.
A great solution, that doesn’t require such drastic restrictions, is to take away three pieces of advice from the cavemen. These three sound bites will promote weight loss, decrease your risk of disease as well as get you looking and feeling good.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Cut down on processed food consumption
- Be active
It is important to emphasize moderation and variation in any healthy diet; therefore when restricting whole food groups from your intake (i.e. dairy and legumes) you are depriving your body of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs for a healthy metabolism. If you are going to experiment and trial the Paleo diet, be sure to choose a variety of foods that are permitted and supplement with vitamins and minerals as needed.
Happy Hunting and Gathering!
Laurie Taunton MS R.D.