What is the latest diet craze? From Hollywood to home, from magazine rack to bookshelf, there seems to be a never ending tale of the ‘World’s Greatest Diet’. Which one, if any, provides us with optimal health whilst at the same time, supporting our weight loss? Whilst these fads or crazes last a short while before a new one comes along, very few diets seem to last forever.
The Paleo Diet/The Caveman Diet
This is where the Paleo Diet comes into fruition. Way back in time, before convenience stores and corner shops, ancient civilization were hunting and surviving very well on wild fish, animals, fruit and vegetables from a world very foreign to us now.
The Paleo Diet or Caveman Diet endeavours to feed our bodies the food in which it was designed to eat. While feeding a car anything other than petrol would have disastrous effect on the engine, feeding our bodies anything other than what it was designed to eat has also proved to be disastrous. This can be seen in the increased incidences of heart disease, inflammation, diabetes and obesity within our society. Research has shown that processed foods, high salt foods and refined sugars; in combination with minimal fruits, vegetables and wholegrain may be culprit for this rise in some people.
Research into the Paleo Diet has shown that by going back to our roots, we may be able to optimize our health and lose weight.
How did ancient humans eat?
- No dairy;
- Minimal grains;
- No salt;
- Minimal sugars. In fact, the only type of sugars they consumed was that of honey and only when they could came across it;
- Wild, lean animal. Their intake of animal protein intake was relatively high;
- Non starchy fruits and vegetables. Their fibre intake was much higher than that of modern day eating;
- The fats they ate were that of the healthy kind. These being monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega 3’s.
Adapting our Lifestyle to the Paleo Diet
Modern day eating consist of meats in the form of saturated fats, vegetables in the form of pizza toppings and fruit in the form of conveniently packaged processed fruit bars generally high in refined sugars. We have lost our way in terms of looking to our natural environment for food sources. The Paleo Diet, however, does just that. It redirects our steering to the more basic way of eating, a way of eating in which our bodies can essentially digest and absorb effectively and efficiently. Looking to the earth for natural food allows our bodies to use these nutrients the best way it knows how for positive results, rather than clogging our systems.
If you go through the supermarket aisle, strategically placed in bird’s eye view, is the processed foods. However, if you look further, you can find raw nuts and seeds, organic meat (which is basically free range, grass fed meat. These animals emulate as much as possible, the way animals roamed the earth in ancient times, and how nature intended). You will find real food, food that is living, foods that spoils when left out of the refrigerator. This is how our ancestors lived – without storage or cool rooms.
Principles of the Paleo Diet are consuming the foods our bodies are genetically designed to ingest. This includes:
- Avoid refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, refined vegetable oils and seeded oils opting rather for cold pressed olive oil;
- Avoid grains such as wheat or any other grains that cannot be eaten raw;
- Fresh is best;
- Avoid dairy foods;
- Avoid processed foods;
- Consume high amounts of lean meats and fish;
- Eat 5-6 small meals per day consisting of lean meat/fish, fruits and vegetables;
- Increase water intake;
- Increase exercise.
Pros and Cons of the Paleo Diet
- Very low in sodium;
- No processed foods;
- An increase in fresh foods;
- Meats, fruits and vegetables keep the blood sugar levels stable allowing a sense of satiety of steady energy levels.
- This way of eating is not for all groups within society eg doesn’t cater for vegetarians;
- Does not allow for dairy products, therefore calcium levels need to be monitored if not substituting with other calcium foods;
- Following this diet may not ensure that all nutrients are being consumed. Research needs to be done, therefore on which foods provide which nutrients in order to achieve optimal health.
- The diet is devoid of grains;
- May prove inconvenient.
Whilst there are a number of versions of the Paleo diet, the basic principles are the same. For more information on the best way to follow this, contact your nutritionist
. They are able to advise, support and offer recipes.