Is Paleo Just Another Diet Fad, or the Real Deal?
With so many fad diets out there, from celebrity quick fixes to dangerous detoxes, it’s little wonder that the Palaeolithic or ‘hunter-gatherer’ lifestyle has come under the same scrutiny. This isn’t a bad thing. It definitely pays to do your research when embarking on any new diet or fitness regime, especially with the guidance of your naturopath or preferred health professional.
The short answer is – no. Paleo isn’t a fad diet. Let’s delve into the theory behind it, to see if it’s the right choice for you.
Where did the Paleo diet come from?
Firstly, let’s get the word ‘diet’ out of our heads. Paleo is more a varied approach to lifestyle, to improve all aspects of your health. It promotes eating the food that was likely consumed by our ancestors of the Paleolithic Period, however the recommendations also apply to lifestyle factors, including sleeping habits, exercise and stress.
Really, it all starts by getting back to nature. In a natural environment, we tend to be at our best, health wise. With the introduction of processed, junk and sugary foods, we’ve moved far from eating what nature provides us with. Computers, televisions and smart phones have contributed to a less active population and disrupted circadian rhythms. Our busy 24/7 world and constant input means stress-levels are continuously on the rise. When we get back to our roots by living in a way that our body has evolved to thrive in, we’re able to combat many of the major illness and issues we see today.
What are the benefits of Paleo?
Unlike fad diets, Paleo is designed to be sustainable over long periods of time. Yes, you might lose weight quickly when you start, but the approach promotes balance with regard to well-being and health in general, rather than specifically focusing on one area.
The benefits of following Paleo are increasingly endorsed by research, especially with regard to the control of illness, such as type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, heart disease and ulcers. It’s also been shown to contribute to weight loss, muscle gain, increases in energy, better skin, stronger bones, good digestion and improved athletic performance.
What foods can you eat?
To eat as our ancestors did, the following foods are recommended:
- Grass-fed and free-range meats
- Fish and seafood
- Nuts and seeds
- Healthy oils, such as olive, macadamia, coconut and avocado
The foods on the ‘don’t eat’ list are:
- Cereal grains
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Refined vegetable oils
For many people, the most confusing food on the ‘don’t eat’ list is dairy. It’s argued that dairy foods are healthy and from nature. Dairy also provides nutrients such as calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin D and vitamin A. I think if you tolerate dairy, it is fine to include, however, there are many people that have symptom improvement when dairy is removed from their diet and there are certain conditions in which dairy avoidance is a key strategy for healing. I personally eat Paleo style with small amounts of good quality diary foods including goats’ cheese, milk kefir, yogourt and raw Jersey milk. A naturopath or nutritionist can guide you through the process of determining what’s most beneficial for you.
What types of meals are included in a Paleo diet?
A Paleo menu can be as varied as you’d like it to be! I personally don’t find it any more restrictive than a diet that includes the foods avoided on a Paleo nutrition plan. An example of a basic day might be poached, free-range eggs with wilted spinach and free-range bacon for breakfast followed by a lunch of grilled chicken with a big colourful salad, avocado and a garlic, olive oil and lemon juice dressing. For dinner you might enjoy grass-fed roast beef with a big pile of colourful roast vegetables and sweet potato drizzled in coconut oil and tossed in rosemary. Snacks might be nuts, seed biscuits, veg sticks and guacamole, fresh fruit, nut and date balls, a smoothie… when you get thinking, the possibilities are endless! It really it is not that different to normal healthy eating, it is just simply avoiding the grains, processed foods and possibly dairy.
Unlike many diets, it’s not about depriving yourself of yummy food. Combining these healthy eating principals with exercise and a mindful approach to life, you will have a holistic way of reaching your health goals.
Ultimately, it all comes down to finding the right way for you, so you can love the life you live, in a healthy, nourished body.