Long ago, in a distant land, there lived different kinds of humans. These human beings were Paleolithic, and before the advent of agriculture, had a different sort of diet altogether.
It is believed that with evolution, the human body did not evolve enough to adapt to the diet of today, and hence, is much more suited to the diet known as, “Paleo Diet”. There is no set Paleo Diet that everyone agrees on. Certain people have different interpretations of this diet; meaning what may be excluded from someone’s Paleo diet could very well be included in someone else’s. The Paleo lifestyle includes this diet as well as a few other lifestyle choices.
DIET DOS AND DONT'S
To aid the understanding of someone new to the Paleo diet, the following table showcases what can and cannot be eaten in this diet, though certain grey areas do exist. Some people may include healthy starches like potatoes in the Don’t category, but others believe it to be perfectly acceptable as a Paleo diet Do.
Why the Paleo diet?
It is believed that our bodies are not well adapted to the processed unhealthy foods we are so comfortable with consuming on a daily basis. Not only do these kinds of foods cause health risks such as obesity and heart diseases, but also affect our lifestyle choices.
The Paleo diet helps to aid both health and lifestyle by adding foods that provide the human body with longer lasting, efficient energy. Not only this, but the diet also aims to help burn excess fat. Because the foods being eaten are as healthy as they are, this diet is also better for digestion, blood sugar regulation, sleeping patterns and metabolism.
A lot of people who have converted to the Paleo diet have claimed to feel more active, healthy and efficient in their daily lives.
Studies that showed the benefits of the Paleo diet
Lindeberg S, et al. A Palaeolithic diet improves glucose tolerance more than a Mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischaemic heart disease.Diabetologia, 2007.
This study was done on 29 men with heart conditions, diabetes or elevated blood sugar. Two groups were made, where one had a Mediterranean like diet while the other had the Paleo diet. The group eating the Paleo diet lost weight and had an improved glycemic control.
Osterdahl M, et al. Effects of a short-term intervention with a paleolithic diet in healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008.
This study focused on 14 healthy medical students who ate the Paleo diet approved foods for 3 weeks. Not only did the individuals lose weight, but they also had a mild reduction in systolic blood pressure.
Jonsson T, et al. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. Cardiovascular Diabetology, 2009.
This study focused on 13 people who had type-2 diabetes. They were placed on a typical diabetes diet and a Paleo diet respectively for 3 months each. The results showed that the Paleo diet improved a lot of cardiovascular risk factors.
There were other studies done as well, and most showed results including improvements in blood sugar regulation, cardiovascular risk factors, and cholesterol.
Some Paleo guidelines
Don’t just try it for a week and give up on it if you don’t see any results. Stick with it for a month or two. Let your digestive system adapt to the new kind of food you will be eating. You will definitely see the results.
The Paleo diet does not mean less food intake because it has the word diet in it. If anything, you are encouraged to eat a lot, so you get the best benefits out of all the great nutrient rich foods you will be eating.
Try to incorporate a good protein source with each meal. It generally helps balance meals and is a good Paleo diet staple.
Don’t be scared or intimidated by the myriads of Paleo diet plans available on the internet. Start small and get used to it as you go forward with the diet. It is not mandatory for you to learn everything there is to know about Paleo diet foods at once.
Eat when you feel hungry. Three meals a day, does not mean you have to eat even if you are not hungry. Now, this also does not entail starving yourself. It just means listen to your body, and do what feels most natural.
The Paleo diet Pros and Cons
The most common way to figure out whether something might be good or bad is to juxtapose its pros and cons.
It creates awareness of how unhealthy modern day foods and diets are.
It has health benefits such as lesser risk of heart disease etc.
It includes foods rich in nutrients and good fats.
Processed foods are completely out, which means your health automatically starts getting better. All unhealthy chemicals that are added to foods to make them appear tastier are completely eliminated.
Encourages vegetables and fruits to be eaten. These foods are great sources of vitamins and minerals.
It is great for people who are prone to allergies because it is dairy, gluten, soy and corn free.
It is great for anemic people because of the red meat added into your dietary regimen. This can provide iron.
It aids weight loss. For those who struggle with obesity and eating disorders, it is a great step towards healthier lifestyle choices.
Dairy is excluded and that can mean that the requisite amount of calcium may not as easily be substituted in our diets. This can lead to conditions such as Osteoporosis if young girls do not get enough calcium in their early development, and can be a risk associated with a Paleo Diet.
Legumes and Grains are not included. These foods are rich in fiber, potassium and magnesium etc. Getting these required minerals and nutrients from other sources is difficult in this day and age.
Since these sorts of diets restrict a person’s entire food intake, they are hard to follow and can generally die out rather easily.
Although studies have proven its health benefits, they are little in number and not large scale.
This sort of diet is expensive and hence remains an elitist phenomenon.
This diet is time-consuming because food preparation can take a good chunk out of your day to day routine. For the busy individual, it is very difficult to adapt to.
This diet is difficult to follow for vegetarians. It excludes beans, which are great a source of proteins. Hence, it is only easy for the vegetarians that eat eggs.
The Paleo lifestyle
The paleo lifestyle does not only mean restricting ourselves in terms of the foods we eat. It incorporates certain lifestyle choices that are believed to be helpful to our health and daily life.
Some of the lifestyle choices include:
Do not use an alarm clock. Sleep enough to be well rested. And do not sleep less than 6 hours a day.
Sleep in a pitch black room.
Wake up, go outside and have some fresh air.
Soak in the sun. Sunlight is great for our body and so are outdoor activities.
Get a good dose of exercise. Go out, run, play, jump about and have fun. Do what feels good, without exerting and stressing yourself.
Do not over-exercise. Excessive exercise can be bad four health and can cause several health risks.
Myths about what Paleo diet really is
A whole lot of bacon eating.
No. A paleo diet does not encourage excessive amounts of meat to be eaten. It encourages a healthy balance in your diet.
The Paleo diet or lifestyle does not mean imitating everything that Paleolithic people did. None one is being encouraged to sleep in caves and go back in time to adopt that lifestyle.
This diet means no more Calcium
Even though Calcium is more difficult to obtain in this diet if you are not well versed with the nutritional values of foods. However, if you try to educate yourself in that respect, foods like Kale, Spinach, and Olives etc. can be good sources of Calcium.
The diet is too hard
All it requires is a little motivation and some commitment. Nothing is too hard unless you think of it being too hard.
All those fats and eggs means Cholesterol
Eggs and healthy fats do not mean clogged up arteries. If one is careful with the amount of food being taken in, there is no possible way healthy fats and eggs could cause high blood cholesterol.