What is paleo and what can you eat on a paleo diet?
Paleo has been around for many years and it’s seen it as a lifestyle choice, rather than a diet. Some people on a paleo diet see flexibility in what you eat, depending on what your body needs.
In its crudest form it’s a diet based on what our cavemen ancestors might have eaten between 2.5 million and 15,000 years ago in the Palaeolithic Era – before the onset of agriculture. An era when humans hunted their meat and foraged for nuts and berries.
Who came up with the Paleo diet
The paleo diet took off in the US in the early 2000s when Loren Cordein PhD published The Paleo Diet. Cordein, now the world’s leading expert on the paleo diet, was inspired by a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine by S. Boyd Eaton M.D on Paleo Nutrition in 1985. Boyd argues that the human genome has hardly changed since the Palaeolithic Era so we remain adapted to eat that diet.
Looking even further back to 1975, Walter L. Voegtlin, M.D self-published The Stone Age Diet: Based On In-Depth Studies of Human ecology and the Diet of Man. Voegtlin’s Stone Age Diet says that humans are carnivorous and therefore should have a diet that is high in fats and protein.
Even though the paleo diet has been around for a long time, it has become a celebrity fad diet in recent years gaining both popularity and notoriety. Paleo hit the news again in 2015 with controversial bone broth for babies chef Pete Evans publishing his paleo book and Kylie Minogue mentioning that she was into paleo too because she is hyperglycaemic.
What can you eat on the Paleo diet
A paleo diet includes grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and pigs, seafood, vegetables, fruit, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils like olive and coconut.
What can't you eat on the Paleo diet
Staunch advocates of paleo say to avoid cereal grains, legumes, dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt and refined vegetable oils.
Even though potatoes may have been around during the Palaeolithic Era, the paleo diet says to avoid them due to their high starch content and high glycaemic index rating.
Processed and refined sugars are also a big no-no on a paleo diet. Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance, obesity and potentially diabetes.
When it comes to beans, according to paleo experts, they are on the avoid list for the paleo diet because of their toxicity. However, it’s argued you could eat them by sprouting beans as humans may have done toward the end of the Palaeolithic Era.
Like any diet, the paleo community have different takes on what you can and can’t do. Some drink milk in moderation, some eat oats, some sprout beans. It’s a lifestyle choice and depends on what your body needs and what agrees with your body.
Why is paleo so against processed foods
Paleo has a big (grain-fed) beef with processed foods such as white bread, sugary snacks and cereals, artificial cheese and processed meats. The inability to metabolise processed foods is at the top of the avoid list for those on a paleo diet. The paleo community argue that these foods have led to obesity,diabetes and heart disease.
Why are there so many snack bars with paleo on them
In the last few years, marketers have been falsely labelling foods as paleo. Labels on snack bars claim they are paleo, but ask yourself, would our Palaeolithic ancestors have had access to snack bars? It’s still a sugary snack bar and definitely not paleo! It’s amazing the lengths marketing spin will go to sell a product!
Is it easy to go paleo
Paleo means cutting out some major food groups and this is obviously not as easy to do as eating a bit of everything in moderation. Keeping in mind to avoid all processed foods would be just the start. Add to that avoiding dairy, grains, legumes and refined oils and it gets a bit trickier.
What are some of the health concerns
The Dieticians Association of Australia has a three-part series on the paleo diet including a list of the pros and cons of going paleo. They say “There are simply not enough good quality studies to suggest a Paleo diet would be advantageous.” And that “It is also important to emphasise that there was not one Paleolithic diet, and consequently there is evidence that during that time frame, from about 30,000 years ago, people ate both grains and legumes.”
The British Dietetic Association states that it’s a “Jurassic fad” and that “a diet with fewer processed foods, less sugar and salt is actually a good idea, but unless for medical reason, there is absolutely no need to cut any food group out of your diet… by cutting out dairy completely from the diet, without very careful substitution, you could be in danger of compromising your bone health because of a lack of calcium. An unbalanced, time consuming, socially isolating diet, which this could easily be, is a sure-fire way to develop nutrient deficiencies, which can compromise health and your relationship with food.”
Should you go paleo
This is a tough question. It comes down to your health, energy levels, wellbeing and your goals. Are you an elite athlete? Are you a nana? Do you need to lose weight?
Perhaps paleo is the answer to your dietary needs, but there would need to be a good reason why you would consider making such major changes.
Radical changes to your diet can have a positive and negative effect on your health. Ask your doctor or other health professional for an expert opinion. Nutritionists (and all of us at the office!) agree that avoiding processed foods is a good thing, so start there and see where that takes your body.
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