The Pa­leo Diet

Yoga Journal - - TEACHER’S TABLE -

THOUGH IT’S BEEN 16 YEARS since Loren Cor­dain pub­lished pa­leo’s epony­mous tome The Pa­leo Diet, this style of eat­ing con­tin­ues to be a fa­vorite among yo­gis and Amer­i­cans in gen­eral. Pa­leo is about get­ting back to the ba­sics, and the ac­cepted rule of thumb goes some­thing like this: If a cave­man ate it, it’s fair game. This means foods like beans, peanuts, and dairy are off lim­its, but many meats and plant foods can be en­joyed with­out fret­ting over calo­rie con­sump­tion. Fresh, whole-food in­gre­di­ents like col­or­ful vegeta­bles (both root and above ground); sea­sonal fruits; pro­tein­packed fish, meats, and eggs; and a hearty dose of healthy fats (nuts, seeds, av­o­ca­dos, and nat­u­ral oils like olive and co­conut) make this diet sa­ti­at­ing and chock-full of vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, and an­tiox­i­dants.


While it’s widely ac­cepted that eat­ing red meat leads to heart dis­ease, cancer, and other chronic ill­nesses, re­cent stud­ies sug­gest that sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits come with a pa­leo life­style that fo­cuses on lean meats and big-pic­ture eat­ing habits em­pha­siz­ing fresh, whole foods. A 2014 study pub­lished in the jour­nal Lipids in Health

and Dis­ease found that eat­ing pa­leo for two weeks im­proved sev­eral car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors, in­clud­ing blood pres­sure and choles­terol, when com­pared with eat­ing a low-fat diet rich in whole grains.

Nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring, health­ful fats have also been shown to sup­port hor­mone pro­duc­tion and pro­mote cel­lu­lar in­tegrity and joint lu­bri­ca­tion, says Kate Cal­laghan, a holis­tic nu­tri­tion­ist in New Zealand. Pro­tein from or­ganic, grass-fed, lean meats pro­vide the amino acids that serve as the build­ing blocks for a whole slew of im­por­tant body func­tions (think growth and re­pair of mus­cles, skin, hair, nails, en­zymes, and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that con­trol mood).

Mean­while, the ab­sence of grains, legumes, dairy, and heav­ily pro­cessed oils (like vegetable, soy, and canola) pro­motes nu­tri­ent ab­sorp­tion, says Kelly Sch­midt, RD, LDN, who’s been liv­ing with type 1 di­a­betes for the past 26 years and eat­ing pa­leo since 2009. (A 2009 study pub­lished in the jour­nal Car­dio­vas­cu­lar Di­a­betol­ogy con­cluded that over a three-month pe­riod, a pa­leo diet, when com­pared with a stan­dard di­a­betes diet, im­proved glycemic con­trol and sev­eral car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors in pa­tients with type 2 di­a­betes.) Di­ets that are high in re­fined starches, sugar, and sat­u­rated and trans fats trig­ger in­flam­ma­tory re­sponses in the body, caus­ing a chronic state of distress, but “a whole-food pa­leo diet of­fers a tem­plate for heal­ing and re­duc­ing in­flam­ma­tion,” Sch­midt says.


Va­ri­ety is key when it comes to eat­ing pa­leo the right way. “I’ve had a num­ber of clients come to me who say they eat strict pa­leo, but their diet is lack­ing di­ver­sity,” Sch­midt says, which means they may be lack­ing the vi­ta­mins, min­er­als, and fiber their bod­ies need. For ex­am­ple, gen­eral elim­i­na­tion of dairy and legumes can cause de­fi­cien­cies in B vi­ta­mins, cal­cium, and vi­ta­min D, which can be detri­men­tal to the ef­fort you put in on your mat. Low B vi­ta­mins can dis­rupt en­ergy, fo­cus, and mood, says Cal­laghan, while low cal­cium can be prob­lem­atic for bone health. Boost B vi­ta­mins by in­cor­po­rat­ing or­ganic meats, nu­tri­tional yeast flakes, or shell­fish a few times per week. “Just 50 grams of liver per day con­tains more than 50 per­cent of all of your daily vi­ta­min and min­eral re­quire­ments,” says Cal­laghan— and get plenty of cal­cium by eat­ing lots of sesame seeds, al­monds, and broc­coli.

While ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from a good mul­ti­vi­ta­min, it may be even more im­por­tant for pa­leos: One study in the jour­nal Nu­tri­ents found that pa­leo di­eters’ long-term avoid­ance of cer­tain car­bo­hy­drates—namely fruits, vegeta­bles, whole grains, and beans—leads to a de­crease in key nu­tri­ents io­dine, sodium, and cal­cium, as well as “sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tions” in thi­amin, ri­boflavin, beta-carotene, folic acid, iron, and vi­ta­mins A, C, and E.

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