Saturday, February 7, 2015

What Exactly IS the “Paleo Diet”???

What Exactly IS the “Paleo Diet”???

You may have heard talk of the “Paleo (paleolithic) diet” or “Caveman Diet”…Even though it appears to be the “trendy” diet these days, it has actually been around for quite a while and really appears to be a very healthy approach to eating. Hopefully, at least in a nutshell, I can help you understand this approach to eating and it’s benefits.
The first time I was made aware of the “Caveman” diet, was probably 5-6 years ago. Being a vegan myself, and really believing very strongly, based on the studies I have read,that a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is (can be) very healthy. I maintain the belief that all of us should be consuming a lot more vegetables than animal protein, chiefly because vegetables supply our bodies with important enzymes that fuel our 7 trillion cells, oxygenating them and allowing them to fend off many age related diseases…So, my first knowledge of this eating plan made me a bit apprehensive about the approach, as I understood it to be very “heavy” on the animal protein. I have now come to have a better understanding of the concept, which actually follows the nutrition program I recommend very closely. Let me explain briefly what the Paleo diet consists of, and I will share with you some additional points that I believe will allow you to have the most success, and greatest health benefits from this way of eating.
The “Paleo” or “Caveman” diet encourages it’s followers to eat the foods our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic (early Stone Age) period of history. This period of time was before animals were domesticated (no cows to milk) and before agriculture (no grains). Men were hunter-gatherers and ate mainly wild game, fish (wild caught –obviously!), fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts and honey. There never existed the processed, denatured foods with refined sugars that are so prevalent today, which research suggests has contributed greatly to the increase in heart disease and Type 2 diabetes and other inflammatory, degenerative diseases. This philosophy has proven itself through cutting edge research into evolutionary biology and epigenetics.
What Exactly IS the “Paleo Diet”???

So, the “Eat Clean” approach that I promote goes hand-in-hand with the Paleo approach. Both plans recommend avoiding processed foods, dairy, and refined sugars. The one area where Paleo is a bit more strict, is the Paleo eating plan also recommends avoiding legumes (beans). In researching the “why” behind this, it makes perfect sense. Beans/legumes contain “lectins” and other compounds….as do grains, developed by plants to fight off insects. When we consume these grains, beans &legumes, it increases the intestinal permeability and can trigger our immune system to turn against our own body, leading to auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus…(again inflammatory issues) Legumes also contain a substance called protease inhibitors which can prevent our bodies from getting the nutrients from the food we eat.
Another area of concern is, since the Paleo diet recommends avoiding dairy, is “soy” milk a good option? I personally never recommend this as a viable alternative due to the questionable impact on our hormones. The Paleo diet supports this view, due to the phytoestrogens…which has been shown to stimulate or interfere with the role of estrogens…having an impact on pain and longer menstrual cycles and lower sperm count in men. A great alternative to cow’s milk is nut milk…Almond Milk and Coconut Milk are both great choices. Obviously your best choice is the unsweetened. As for cheeses, there are options made from vegetable/nut proteins that are very good. Read the labels though! If they have “Casein”, stay away from it. Casein is the protein found in milk that has been directly linked to cancer. I use “Daiya” cheddar style cheese. I find it in the health food section. It tastes wonderful and melts just like the real thing!!
So..In a nutshell, the foods we include on the Paleo diet would be:
• Vegetables – I would still recommend avoiding white potatoes due to the high glycemic index
• Seasonal fruits- I would recommend limiting these to one serve a day, due to the fructose content will still have an effect on your blood sugar. I believe, and have seen success with consuming your fruit with protein (ie. Apple/almond butter, orange/hard boiled egg)
• Free range grass fed meats – I recommend seeking out the leanest cut..a filet mignon, a lean pork chop. If you hunt, wild caught meat is a great option. I still, also recommend limiting consumption of red meats to 1x/week..due to how hard your body must work to digest it.
• Wild caught seafood- When you shop, read the labels. If it says “farm-raised” …keep looking.
• Cage free, organic eggs. I also, still recommend, even with the organic cage free, that we consume about 50/50 yolks….so for every 2 eggs, eat 1 yolk. There are many nutrients in the yolks, but that is still where the fat and cholesterol is found..
The foods we are aiming to avoid are:
• Processed foods- That’s fast food, boxed food, pre-packaged foods…go ”Back to nature”…
• Grains – This means breads, cereals, pastas,etc!! YIKES!!...No doubt, this is the most challenging area of his eating plan…Instead of eating your tuna on bread…put it over a bed of spinach, or eat it with a sweet potato…You will find ways to make it work!!
• Refined sugars…This is a doozy too! No soft drinks, candy or artificial sweetners. The only one allowed is Stevia…and a small amount of honey
• Beans/legumes..We talked about why.
So…all of this being said, this is a VERY healthy approach to eating. The caution I would give, is as always….be careful how much animal protein you are consuming…Research still points to the fact that many degenerative diseases are caused by animal fats. Choose wild, free range, organic meats, and still aim for 75% of your plate consisting of a variety of vegetables, with as little cooking as possible- and 25% lean wild meat. I still believe grazing throughout the day, keeps your metabolic engine running high…(which is a good thing!)…As long as you are eating the right foods!
What Exactly IS the “Paleo Diet”???

Hopefully this helps you better understand the basics of the Paleo/Caveman diet. There is further information to be learned about the Paleo approach to eating. And, I guarantee you, there are tons of resources to learn all you need to know about this plan. There are also so fabulous cook books! You might check out The Paleo Recipe Book or The Paleohacks Cookbook.
I do recommend this as a lifelong approach to eating. When you cut the dairy, you may notice less bloat and puffiness and possibly fewer colds/flus. Research has shown over and over again that we are not meant to consume foods made from cows milk. Add to this, cutting the grains. This is the area that I believe causes the most problems with our health and also is the most challenging area to change in our diets. Those grains not only turn to simple sugar once they are digested, which will spike your blood sugar….but the increase in genetic modification in the grains we eat, adds more toxic chemicals into our bodies. I need not say much about refined sugars, everybody knows the dangers these cause to our bodies. And it makes sense to eat meat that has come from animals living a full life, the way they were designed to…without the added plethora of drugs contained in the meats we get from factory farms. Looking at the foods we are cutting out when we adopt the Paleo approach, helps you understand how this approach can help you achieve your best overall health.

I encourage you to learn as much as you can about this approach to eating. Give it a try. You may feel a bit tired at first, as you are cutting the carbohydrates that tend to give you at least a quick burst of energy. But as your body adjusts, and gets healthier and more efficient, you will sleep better and have more energy throughout the day. Good luck.

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