Me eat now…
Noticed those people in your office lunch room eating meat and leafy green veges, without a carbohydrate to be seen? They’re probably on the paleo diet.
The Paleo diet is the ultimate in going ‘back to the good old days’. Paleo, short for Paleolithic, is a diet which directs us to mimic the (assumed) dietary habits of our stone-age ancestors.
Beloved of athletes and the less athletic seeking weight loss, the Paleo diet has become the new Atkins diet, enjoying faddish popularity worldwide.
Nutritionally speaking, Paleo is a far better option than the maligned Atkins diet, which has, thankfully, fallen out of favour.
Friends of mine who have fallen for the mysterious lure of endurance sports, marathons, harbour swims and Ironman events swear by Paleo – although they do get a break on the ‘no-carb’ rule, eating kumara and yams before big workouts or events.
Even for non-athletes Paleo offers health gains. Increasing intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and lean proteins while eliminating (yes, completely) processed food, refined sugar, potatoes, pasta and bread can be effective for weight-loss, improving the body’s ability to use food as fuel rather than store it as fat. It also brings health benefits by reducing salt and sugar in the blood stream. Evidence – anecdotal and clinical – shows shrinking waistlines and lower bad-cholesterol levels.
The potential benefits of Paleo makes for quite a compelling list; improved insulin, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic response. Increased energy, improved weight-control, improved acid/alkaline balance, cholesterol management and improved immune response. Research suggests that Paleo followers eating less meat gain anticancer, breast and prostate benefits.
A common criticism of Paleo is that culling dairy from the diet threatens calcium needs, especially for women. But enthusiasts argue that this is baseless as the finest sources of calcium are in fact green-leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Are you ready?
The improved availability of energy from eating this high protein, vegetable rich, high-fibre and dense micro-nutrient diet readily explains the enthusiasm of athletes who push their body hard, relying on optimal health to succeed.
Athletic enthusiasm is relevant in considering if you are ready for Paleo. It takes discipline in two ways. First in eating the high density and volume of vegetables you need; no sugar, bread, pasta or starches. Dropping all dairy so no cheese, butter, milk or cream and of course ending alcohol intake too.
If you like fish, lots of leafy green veges, love meat and can afford organic, great. But one barrier remains. Exercise, which is a key part of Paleo. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle involved lots of movement to get food and this diet is balanced by exercise.