Paleo Diet Basics
Our Western diet has contributed to an epidemic of ill health. By looking back to when humans were at their most healthy, we can get clues to what our diet should contain. The ‘Paleo Diet’, also known as the ‘cave man diet’, is a diet based on the foods we would have eaten during the Palaeolithic era brought within the realms of what is available to us in a modern society.
The Paleo diet is not a ‘fad’ diet, it has been around for as long as humans have and it is here to stay. The Paleo diet is backed up by modern science and a growing army of followers will testify to the incredible results of improved health and maintenance of a healthy body weight.
Our ancestors evolved over millions of years eating the diet we now refer to as the Paleo diet and living in harmony with nature. The massive changes we have seen in the last few thousand year happened too quickly for our Human Genome to adapt. We now have a body unable to cope with a western diet.
Evidence suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were in fact much healthier than we are now. In the pre-agricultural era on 10,000 year ago (and removing the influence of modern medicine), there is little evidence of diseases such as:
Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis)
Type 2 diabetes
Autoimmune diseases (multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, etc.)
Myopia (nearsightedness), macular degeneration, glaucoma
Varicose veins, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, gastric reflux
The short average life span of our Palaeolithic friends was due to death in childbirth, infant mortality, extreme weather & exposure and trauma from hunting etc.
The amount of meat we should eat is a very ‘hot’ topic, in terms of environmental sustainability; it is a great idea to reduce the amount of meat we eat and get this meat from sustainable sources.
In the context of a Paleo diet this is achieved by eating a wide range of vegetables as the basis of your diet, practising ‘nose to tail’ eating including nutrient dense foods such as offal and bone broths.
Here are some of the main Paleo Diet authors and web sites.
Paleo Diet Basics –
WHAT YOU SHOULD EAT ON THE PALEO DIET
• Ideally 100% Grass fed meats and wild game
• Sustainable sourced fish and sea food
• Organic or home grown fruit and vegetables (minimising white potatoes and including fermented foods like sauerkraut)
• Free range Eggs
• Nuts and Seeds
• Healthy Oils (coconut, avocado, olive, flaxseed)
• Raw Milk and Dairy Products if you can tolerate them (different books have differing opinions on this)
NOT PERMITTED ON A PALEO DIET
• Cereal grains, yes whole grains too!
• Legumes Including peanuts
• Refined Sugar
• All processed foods
• Refined Vegetable Oils
Beneficial differences between our modern western diet and a paleo or primal diet.
• You will eat more Protein – Our hunter- gatherer forefathers ate about 19-35% Protein. Our Western diet comprises of about 15 % of calories consumed. Good quality meats, fish and eggs should contribute to most of your protein requirements.
• You will eat carbohydrates that have a lower Glycaemic load – Non starchy fruit and vegetables will provide most of our carbohydrate requirements, this will keep your blood sugar stable. Avoiding blood sugar spikes will keep you slim and maintain consistent energy levels.
• You will eat more fibre, yes even without eating whole grains! – Dietary fibre is essential for good health, and vegetables and fruit contain far higher amounts of fibre than grains. Some vegetables have 31 times more fibre than refined flour products.
• You will eat more fat, but only the good stuff – Recent comprehensive large population studies show that saturated fats have little or no adverse effects upon cardiovascular disease. And yes you GP’s information is out of date! Choose your meats wisely so that the saturated fat you eat is from animals fed on grass. 100% grass fed meats have up to five times the Omega- 3 Fats of animals that have been fed grain based diets. Eat healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with a higher Omega-3 to and Omega-6 ratio. Cut the trans fats and reduce the Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in your diet.
• Your diet will be higher in potassium and lower sodium if you eat natural unprocessed food. Our ancestors had a ratio of about 5 potassium to 1 sodium and out body needs this balance to help our organs work properly. Modern diets are likely to have a ratio of 2 sodium to 1 potassium causing high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke intake.
• Our bodies will be more Alkaline – By eating a diet high in fruit and vegetables you will reduce your acid load to the kidneys. High dietary acid may lead to bone and muscle loss, high blood pressure, risk of kidney stones and aggravate asthma.
• We will receive more, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and plant phytochemicals – Grains are no substitute for grass fed meats, fruits, and veggies, as they contain no vitamin C, vitamin A, or vitamin B12. Many of the minerals and some of the B vitamins whole grains do contain, are not synthesised into the body well.
• I left this paleo diet basics ‘hot potato’ until last. I will try and provide my reasoning for including Dairy, which was not available to our hunter-gathering friends. I believe that a natural product from an animal which (in some form) was around in prehistoric times is acceptable. I think that the main reasons Paleo purists avoid dairy is that many people have a problem with lactose and casein intolerance. Both these molecules are present in human breast milk and therefore our ancestors must have not just tolerated but thrived for a time on foods including these. I do however think that milk and its derivatives should be ‘raw’ as the pasteurisation process takes away the beneficial bacteria and enzymes that help us digest it. I think that homogenisation is a NO NO as it messes with the way our body recognises it as food and it is more likely to be treated as an allergen. If dairy was an unpalatable food there would be no good reason to include it in our diet. Raw dairy and its products are delicious and can make a very difficult diet regime MUCH easier by adding flavour and texture to so many dishes.