Chances are that you’ve heard of The Paleo Diet — the trend based on the question “What would a caveman do?” While it is founded on a simple concept, there are many things to consider before you make the Paleo leap. With knowledge, comes power. So allow me to educate you…
Origin: Boyd Eaton and Melvin Conner published a paper on paleolithic nutrition and its benefits in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1985. Since then, several studies and articles have been written on the topic. Dr. Loren Cordain is the founder of “The Paleo Movement” and one of the world’s leading experts on the paleolithic diet. He has written over 100 peer-reviewed articles on the Stone Age Diet.
Philosophy: The diet is based on the idea that the best foods for our bodies and metabolisms are those that were consumed during the Paleolithic Era (BEFORE the existence of agriculture and the domestication of animals). In other words, if it wasn’t available to the caveman (dairy, grains, processed sugar, etc), you shouldn’t eat it. One of the major ideas behind the Paleo Diet is that our metabolisms have not adapted well enough to handle foods that are available as a result of modern agriculture. The diet claims to help optimize overall health, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote weight loss.
Lifestyle: Paleo is not just a diet. It is a lifestyle. Our paleolithic ancestors were active. Their lives depended on it (they had to catch their food…). Hence, movement is an important part of the Paleo lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to join a gym. In fact, the opposite is encouraged. Try getting in as much natural movement as possible (running, climbing, throwing, swimming). Some Paleo proponents also support high weight, low rep workouts. Pick up heavy sh*t and put it back down…how much more “caveman” can you get?! This is why a ton of Crossfit-ers are Paleo advocates.
What You Can Eat: (according to thepaleodiet.com)
- Grass-produced meats
- Fish & seafood
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
- Plant-based based oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, avocado, coconut, etc)
What You Can’t Eat:
- Refined Sugar
- Processed foods
- Refined vegetable oils (corn and canola)
- Eliminates foods with low nutrient density (i.e. processed foods high in fat, calories, and salt)
- High in fiber
- High in phytochemicals (from fruits and veggies)
- Encourages consumer awareness
- Environmentally friendly (local and seasonal sourcing of food)
- Can be high in saturated fats and cholesterol coming from animal proteins
- Excessive protein can be harmful to kidneys and requires lots of hydration
- Expensive (grass fed & organic meats are not cheap)
- Can be low carb (your brain needs 165 g / day to function!)
- Strict and difficult to follow
Before you eliminate foods from your diet, think about what you can add. Start by consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables before you consider eliminating ALL dairy, grains, and processed foods. Know that a lifestyle change is a process and take it one meal and one day at a time. AND don’t forget what is important to you! Living a healthy lifestyle requires sacrifices, but it shouldn’t get in the way of your relationships. Moderation is key!