What Is Paleo?
“99.9% of our genes were formed before the development of agriculture” – Dr. S. Boyd Eaton, MD, Medical Anthropologist.
What is Paleo?
Paleo is short for Paleolithic, and the premise of a Paleo diet centers around the idea that our bodies have not adapted sufficiently to eating foods that weren’t available to us 10,000 years ago. It is thought that more than 70% of food consumed today was never available in Paleolithic times. We put so much processed food into our bodies; most which us unhealthy. The advances in agriculture and mass food production have caused us to move away from eating real food; food meant to work with our bodies for optimal health.
A Paleo diet involves eating meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little starch, some fruit and no sugar. It means no grains, legumes, dairy or alcohol. It means staying away from all processed foods. It means eating as our hunter-gathers ancestors did. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is riddled with refined sugars, adulterated vegetable oils, dairy products and grains all of which can lead to obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Diet-related chronic diseases represent the largest cause of death in America. These diseases were rare or nonexistent in the Paleolithic era and can largely be blamed on excessive consumption of modern foods including cereals, refined sugars, processed vegetable oils and industrially-raised meats.
Why are grains forbidden?
Grains can irritate the gut and can lead to hypoglycemia. Grains and legumes contain a variety of anti-nutritional components such as lectins, saponins, and phytic acid. Lectins (sugar-binding proteins) can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract which interferes with digestion, nutrient absorption and stimulates shifts in bacterial flora. Lectins are particularly damaging in the form of gluten-containing grains such as wheat (including wheat germ), rye and barley. Lectins are not broken down in the normal digestive process thus leaving large, intact proteins in the gut. When these large, protein molecules enter our bloodstream, they are easily mistaken as foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses or parasites. When this happens, the immune system mounts an attack on those foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them. Saponins impair the digestion of protein and the uptake of vitamins and minerals in the gut, and may cause hypoglycemia. Phytic acid has been proven to inhibit absorption of mineral and trace elements such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and manganese. The moral of the story? If you’re looking to restore digestive health and regulate your blood sugar, cut out all grains and legumes.
What about Dairy?
Many followers of the Paleo diet think dairy is out because of the idea that the hunter would have consumed the milk of their own species during the suckling period. However, most Paleo followers believe that cows’ milk was not consumed during this period (Some Paleo followers do consume minimal dairy, it is in the grey zone). There is plenty of good research indicating that milk is not an optimal food. Milk has some good qualities; some people thrive on milk- but most do not because it’s high in sugar and lactose. Lactose digestion is difficult for many, and some are allergic to casein, the protein in milk.
What about fat? How will I get energy?
Fat is a much more powerful fuel for our bodies than sugar and starch “The human body and brains’ primary source of fuel is designed to be fat in the form of ketones – not glucose,” says Nora Gedgaudas in her book,Primal Body, Primal Mind, Ketosis occurs when the body is burning fat, not glucose, as its primary fuel. Picture fat as the slow-burning log on the fire and sugar is like paper, which burns very quickly. Basically you can get enough of what your body needs from Paleo diet to thrive just as our ancestors did before bread, bagels, pasta and cake became part of today’s diet.
What about Canola Oil and other Fats?
Canola, soy, corn and other vegetable oils are highly-processed and were not available to our Paleolithic ancestors. These monounsaturated oils are very heat sensitive and the high heat they are exposed to during the extraction process renders them toxic to the body. This leads to free-radical formation and can cause inflammation. A diet high in these oils can damage our cell membranes, which need saturated fats. In addition, when we eat healthy fats, our gallbladders send a message to our brains telling us that we’re full. People who eat low-fat foods high in vegetable oils (instead of natural, saturated fats like butter), don’t receive the critical message from the brain, “I’m full”, so they tend to overeat. Most fats consumed by people today come from these unhealthy oils, trans-fats and from omega-6 fats.
“In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more calories one ate, the lower people’s serum cholesterol. We found that people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories weighed the least and were the most physically active.” – FromArchives of Internal Medicine, 1992. Dr. William Castilli, Director of the Framingham Study.
Numerous studies have concluded the following results for those on a Paleo diet:
- Weight loss
- Improved glucose tolerance
- Lowered blood pressure
- Significant reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides
- Increased feeling of satiation
According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition Advance Online Publication, “Even short-term consumption of a Paleolithic type diet improves blood pressure and glucose tolerance, decreases insulin secretion, increases insulin sensitivity and improves lipid profiles without weight loss in healthy humans.”
The Paleo diet is not just another diet. It is a lifestyle; a change in the way you eat and live. It’s a journey to find the foods that make you healthy and feel good. I encourage you to try it for strictly for 30 days. Keep a food journal of what you eat and how it made you feel. If after the 30 day trial you decide to “cheat”, write your body’s response in your food journal.
Listen to your body after you have had a snack, meal or drink and honestly ask yourself if you feel good. Most importantly, determine how good you feel good hours later or the following day.
Do I need to eat strictly Paleo forever?
For some people, keeping a 95% – 100% Paleo Diet is the only way to stay healthy. For others, 85% adherence to the Paleo principals is good enough. I strongly suggest a 30-day strict Paleo Challenge at some point to reset your body’s insulin response to foods and to heal your stomach from damage due to the SAD diet.
- Abouve Information sourced from: Practically Paleo Living
PALEO FOOD PYRAMID: