The hugely popular Paleo diet is based on the hypothesis that for optimal health, we need to go back to eating real, whole unprocessed foods that are healthier to our bodies. The paleo diet which is also nicknamed as the caveman diet or the hunter gatherer diet is based on the simple concept that a highly processed, carbohydrate-rich diet is the culprit behind many of our biggest health problems and we should go back to eating the same foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors supposedly ate. These foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, and sea foods. Paleo diet keeps us more in line with the evolutionary pressures that played pivotal role in shaping our current genetics. It has a positive influence on our health and well being. It lessens the body’s glycemic load and provides a healthy ratio of saturated to unsaturated fatty acids. Paleo diet also helps increase consumption of vitamins and nutrients besides providing optimal balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Health benefits of a paleo diet
• Clear skin and better teeth
• Stable blood sugar
• Balanced energy
• Helps burn off stored body fat
• Reduced allergies
• Helps improve sleep patterns
Humans have biologically evolved to thrive on whole foods
Over the last 200,000 years, humans have biologically evolved to thrive on whole foods such as plants, meat and seafood. Agriculture came on the scene only recently, about 10,000 years ago, which is just a tiny fraction of our evolutionary history. Agriculture changed what people ate and added many additional staples in the human diet. There hasn’t been enough time and the evolutionary pressure required to completely adapt to eating modern foods like sugar, wheat, processed vegetables, and seed oils. According to paleo diet experts it’s no coincidence that many of the modern diseases that we see around, like autoimmune disorders, type II diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, have accompanied the global spread of processed foods. Paleo diet calls for a return to a more ancestral approach to eating.
Paleo diet means giving up processed foods
While in paleo diet, you should avoid anything that comes in a box, jar or a bag or anything that just wasn’t consumed then. This means you will have to give up anything made of grains, dairy, legumes, processed sugar and added salt. Paleo diet is not a temporary diet. It is meant to be a lifestyle like how it was thousands of years ago. You simply can’t stop it when you feel like or when you start feeling better or when you reach your weight loss goal.
We can’t mimic our ancestors completely
Our ancestors never chased cows or chickens in the wild. They hunted buffalo, antelopes and probably some animals we have never heard of that are long extinct. The meat from these animals was generally lean and provided more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than we get from modern day animals, even considering those grass fed ones. Many of the plants on which our ancestors thrived on back then are long extinct. So it’s impossible that we can truly follow their meal plan.
You will need to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet
Paleo diet experts estimate that our ancestors consumed an equal ratio of calories from meats and plants. This means on paleo diet you will have to eat a lot of salads to get the same amount of calories as what you will get from a steak. That’s the reason why paleo diet includes mostly fruits and vegetables. Consuming too much protein and not enough carbohydrate can lead to kidney damage and may also increase risk of osteoporosis. More over since most of today’s meats are higher in saturated fat than those of yesterday, excess consumption can increase your risk of heart disease.
The basic tenets of a standard Paleo diet
Before agriculture came in to existence, our ancestors had to depend on lots of staple foods and had either very limited access or no access to foods that are not allowed in paleo diet. Hopefully you are already eating a lot of these foods. Interestingly in Paleo diet you can eat as much as you feel like.
• Paleo diet emphasizes eating nutrient-dense, unprocessed, nourishing foods. On paleo diet you should prefer vegetables, grass fed and pastured meats and eggs and wild caught fishes. You should also enjoy fruits, nuts and seeds in moderation.
• You should avoid foods that are reputed for causing systemic inflammation, adversely impacting natural metabolic processes and wrecking your gut. Some of the pro-inflammatory foods that you should avoid include gluten-containing grains, sugar, legumes, alcohol, starches, dairy and highly processed foods.
Why paleo diet avoids healthy, whole grains?
Contrary to our popular belief that whole grains are healthy to humans, they actually aren’t. Human bodies have not yet adapted to be able to digest grains. They contain anti-nutrients like gluten, lectins and phytates. Our digestive system is not wired to digest anti-nutrients.
When should you eat?
Paleo diet recommends eating only when you are hungry. If we look back to our evolutionary history, we will see that our ancestors didn’t have the luxury to walk up to a vending machine or drive to a restaurant. Sometimes they would go all day long or even days without finding any food. We are designed to use our excess fat stores as energy during these situations.
Paleo diet can be expensive
If you are not careful with your budget, paleo diet can get expensive. But with a little research you can make eating healthy incredibly affordable. Though it is good that you should prefer eating organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef and free range chicken, they are more expensive because of the process involved in producing them. However if you have access to a farmer’s market, you will often find reasonably priced meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits that are locally grown and are incredibly healthy. It makes more sense to spend a few extra bucks on healthier foods than spending thousands later on expensive medical bills.