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.

Element - - Nutrition - LANI LOPEZ Lani Lopez Adv. Dip Nat, BHSc. is a natur­opath, clin­i­cal nu­tri­tion­ist and founder of lanilopez.com. Talk nu­tri­tion and win­ter well­be­ing with Lani at face­book.com/lanilopez.com

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.

Win­ning ways

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.

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