What Is The Paleo Diet ?
The Paleo Diet is presented in a book written by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. The diet is based on his studies of human ancestors and their eating habits. He proposes that the dietary changes that occurred with the agricultural revolution and the industrial age are largely responsible for the problems of obesity and disease in society. The Paleo Diet brings you back to a fundamental way of eating that Cordain and other advocates claim are best for the human body.
The Paleo Diet is simple. It consists of basic foods such as plain meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts, vegetables, fruits, berries and mushrooms. Products such as dairy, legumes and dry beans, grains, coffee, alcohol, sugar and processed foods are not part of the diet, as these foods came about after the onset of agricultural revolution. Use minimally processed oils, such as avocado, olive or coconut oil, for cooking. The diet does not advocate specific proportions of these foods, it just advocates that you choose foods that were available to those living in the Paleolithic Era. Water is the drink of choice for the diet.
The foods that were available to your Paleolithic ancestors include game meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, nuts, fruits, vegetables and eggs — the only foods allowed on the Paleo diet. Grains, whether refined or whole, are excluded from the diet. Dairy foods, legumes, processed foods and oils are also excluded from the diet because your ancestors did not have access to them.
Certain foods and food groups are completely restricted while following the Paleo diet. Grains such as bread, cereals and pasta along with dairy products such as milk, cheese or yogurt aren’t allowed on a strict Paleo diet, nor is added sugar or salt. Other restricted foods include starchy vegetables and legumes such as potatoes, beans, peanuts and peas.
A strict Paleo diet will follow an unweighed and unmeasured approach to serving sizes that allows you to determine how much food you need to eat. For athletes, however, Cordain recommends consuming 200 to 300 calories an hour before exercise and another 200 to 400 calories per hour for exercise exceeding one hour in duration. Immediately following exercise, imbibe a recovery drink is recommended composed of carbohydrates and proteins at a ratio of 4-5:1.
Based on your individual nutritional requirements, you may need to adjust the Paleo diet. Consult a registered dietician or physician before starting the Paleo diet. Adding certain foods, such as occasional grains or starchy vegetables, is acceptable as long as the majority of the food choices follow the basic Paleo guidelines.
Even though whole grains provide health benefits, creating them involves an industrial process called milling, during which the grain is placed into a machine and ground until it reaches the desired consistency. Whole grains are excluded from the Paleo diet because industrial processes like milling were not available to your ancestors. Grain in its natural form is not edible.
Proponents of the Paleo plan claim the diet is more appropriate for the human body, helping improve digestion and promote optimal energy. It shuns processed foods, which usually contain added sodium, fats and sugars that contribute to weight and health problems. The focus on fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats also provides your body with essential nutrients, valuable fatty acids, fiber and protein. Some Paleo dieters testify that the diet has helped their symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain. Advocates also assert that the diet helps you find a natural way of losing weight and is a healthy way to follow a lower-carbohydrate lifestyle. You do not have to worry about counting calories or measuring your food on this diet.
The diet is relatively restrictive and requires some self-control, as familiar foods, such as bread, pasta, rice and baked goods, are off-limits. You may find it hard to eat according to the Paleo Diet at restaurants or meals at friends’ homes. Eliminating sugar, caffeine and alcohol can cause side effects such as headaches and fatigue, but usually these pass within a few days. Unless you plan carefully, you may also face calcium deficiency because of the lack of dairy.
To reach a happy nutritional medium, you may want to consider adding whole grains into a Paleo-like diet. Keep the basis of the diet the same by focusing on lean meat, fish, nuts, eggs, fruits and vegetables, but add whole grains to one or two meals per day. Examples of whole grains include barley, brown rice, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta and wild rice.
Your Paleo diet might begin with a breakfast omelet of eggs, spinach, mushrooms cooked in olive oil with a fresh fruit salad. For lunch, you could have seared sirloin steak with a large green salad dressed with lemon juice and avocado oil, steamed vegetables and a handful of raw nuts. At dinner, have broiled salmon with avocado slices, roasted beets and mashed cauliflower. For snacks and desserts, stick to fresh fruit, raw nuts and cut-up vegetables
Feel free to have a look at my Thirty-Day Challenge on my blog. The feedback and the results that have been obtained are amazing. It is also a good way to start the Paleo life-style as by doing the challenge for 30 days you get an amazing reward for your efforts, and that is the fact that energy would be on the rise and weight ( FAT MASS), on the way down .
Who is following the diet?
There are two main groups of followers:
- The most vocal are the group that follows the paleo diet to get maximum athletic performance and health. Art DeVany was an early proponent of this. Then this group got a big boost with the publication in 2005 of The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance [for Amazon.com click image along right] by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel. Then the Crossfit: Forging Elite Fitness organization (with its 1,200 affiliates) picked up on it and incorporated the diet into their program. It is also becoming popular among triathletes.
- The others are the original group that eat paleo to avoid “foreign proteins” and prevent the diseases of civilization (cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, osteoporosis, acne, gastrointestinal disease, depression, migraine headaches, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis). See Staffan Lindeberg’s Food And Western Disease. Some in this group are already gluten-free being celiacs, and a subset is already dairy-free (e.g. for control of autism spectrum disorders or allergies).