The paleo diet. The caveman diet. The stone age diet. Just what is this diet and is it a new trend? The paleo diet focuses on eating the foods our paleolithic ancestors ate: Meats, fresh produce, seeds and mushrooms. These are foods that were around a few thousands years ago.
To some scientists and nutritionists, this is the food that our modern genetic code is built upon. This is the fuel to make our bodies and minds operate at optimal levels. Over the centuries the addition of grains, dairy and processed food has let to the rise of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity.
What foods don’t people on the paleo diet eat? They do not eat grains (rice, corn, wheat, flour, quinoa), dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), beans (this includes peanuts), white potatoes, processed sugars or any type of processed food.
What do they eat? Meat (chicken, fish, beef, pork) and fresh produce (berries, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, seeds, nuts, mushrooms).
Still confused on what is paleo and what is not? The best way to think of it is if you were stranded on an island, or lost in the wilderness, what would you eat to survive? You won’t have access to dairy or grains. But you will have wildlife and vegetation.
- Less bloating and inflammation
- Meals throughout the day and even energy levels
- More fruits and vegetables in your diet
- More healthy fats (which with exercise means you are using these fats for energy since the paleo diet combined with exercise will deplete fat stores)
- It can be hard to find fresh, healthy and/or organic food in some areas
- Requires time and meal planning (no more McDonald’s on the run)
- Knowing where your food came from. Grass fed cow? Or industrialized farm where cow eats toxic corn?
- Eating a rich and balanced array of food to ensure proper nutrients
- May require more trips to the market for fresh foods
- Withdrawl. You will miss those carbs and sugars…for a little bit
My take on the paleo diet:
When I stick to a paleo diet my body composition improves, I have even energy levels throughout the day, I am less moody, and my body looks and feels amazing. And when I fall off the paleo diet? Weight gain. Bloating. Upset stomach. Sluggish.
I made the decision to go what I am call “paleo lite” – I follow the paleo diet for a majority of what I eat. And if the occasion arises for a special treat, I will enjoy a moderate portion and move on. In today’s world, going 100 percent paleo is a true challenge. And I’m not about to tell my mom, grandma or friends who enjoy cooking I will never, ever try their dishes. (But I will warn you, if you stick to paleo hard core, you will actually lose the cravings and taste for most of what we eat everyday. And your stomach may not quite enjoy it either).
It also takes some work to find healthy, health food. Try and find meats and eggs that came from grass fed, or free range animals. Industrial farms literally feed live stock toxic corn until are about ready to die. This process speeds up their weight gain, but kills them. Did you know the majority of corn grown in the U.S. is essentially inedible? Check out the documentary King Corn. Interesting take on corn in the U.S.
And yes, I’ve gotten the stares and “what?” comments when I eat out. Chipotle – no rice please (I swear the woman behind me about had a fit). My favorite neighborhood pub, no bun or cheese on the hamburger. Bottom line is you can still go out, but with modification and adjustment.
Interested in learning more? Check out the following websites or books (Well Fed is amazing and really breaks it down). They offer some great information, suggestions and recipes. If anything, I challenge you to try the paleo diet for four weeks and see how you feel and notice the difference how your body operates on real food verses processed food.