The Paleo Diet Broken Down
Watch out diet wranglers, there’s a new sheriff in town. This one’s called the Paleo diet, and it’s based on eating only the sort of foods that our ancestors from the Paleolithic era would have typically consumed. During the time from around 2.6 million years ago until the start of the agricultural revolution, around 10,000 years ago, these hunter-gatherers ate only fresh meats from grass fed range animals, fish and other seafood, vegetables, fresh fruits, seeds and nuts, and healthy oils derived from those seeds and nuts.
Before the agricultural revolution, things like dairy, grains, legumes, processed foods and refined sugars did not exist, and according to Dr. Loren Cordain, the inventor of the Paleo diet, the beginning of the agricultural revolution spelled the beginning of the end for mankind’s healthy eating habits.
Dr. Cordain maintains that our hunter-gatherer ancestors tended not to suffer from the many chronic diseases and conditions that currently plague Western society, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, myopia, glaucoma, macular degeneration, acne, varicose veins, gout, gastric reflux, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and more.
Based upon modern day versions of these Paleolithic foods, the Paleo diet features seven basic characteristics that he believes will optimize your digestive health and reduce your risk of disease:
• More protein – 19 – 35%, versus 15% in a typical Western diet. Meat, fish and eggs are staples of the Paleo diet;
• Less carbohydrates and a lower glycemic index – Fresh vegetables and non-starchy fruits are the main source of carbohydrates, providing 35 – 45% of the diet’s daily calories;
• More fiber – Although the diet doesn’t include whole grains, non-starchy vegetables actually contains eight times more fiber, and fruits contain twice the fiber of whole grain;
• Higher amounts of mono- and polyunsaturated fats containing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, which actually lower risk of cardiovascular disease rather than raising it;
• Less sodium and more potassium, known to be beneficial for the heart, kidneys and other organs. This combination lowers blood pressure and reduces risk of heart disease and stroke;
• More vitamins, minerals, plant phytochemicals and antioxidants, from the increased amounts of vegetables, fruits and lean meats, as opposed to grain products;
• A net alkaline as opposed to acid load to the kidneys – Fruits and vegetables deliver an alkaline load to the kidneys after digestion, while meats, fish, legumes, grains, cheese and salt all produce an acid load. High dietary acid increase the risk of kidney stones, causes high blood pressure and bone and muscle loss.
So What is the Paleo Diet?
In a nutshell, this diet boils down to foods you should eat, and foods you should avoid. What you should eat:
• Grass-fed meats;
• Fish and seafood;
• Fresh fruits and vegetables;
• Eggs from free range chickens;
• Nuts and seeds;
• Olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil or coconut oil.
What you should avoid:
• Any kind of cereal grain;
• Any dairy;
• Refined sugar;
• Any sort of legumes, including peanuts;
• Processed foods;
• Refined vegetable oils not listed on the previous list.
Some Examples of the Paleo Diet
Breakfast could be an omelet with vegetables, sautéed in olive oil with diced chicken breast or turkey. Lunch might be a salad of mixed greens and vegetables with sliced beef, chicken, turkey, ground beef or bison, pork chunks or salmon, tuna, shrimp or other seafood, tossed with olive oil and lemon juice.
Dinner gets a little trickier. Try substituting spaghetti squash for pasta, topped with pesto, meatballs and marinara sauce. Any sort of grilled meat or fish is good, accompanied by a side of steamed vegetables. Desserts should consist of some sort of fresh fruit.
Will the Paleo diet help you live longer? The jury is still out, but it certainly might make the intervening years seem a lot longer.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.
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