Getting to Know the Paleo Diet
It’s a New Year, and many of us are thinking about how to get healthier and lose weight. When I was out shopping recently, I came across a book called “The Paleo Diet”, and I was curious to find out more.
The Paleo diet, or Paleolithic diet, otherwise known as the Caveman diet, is a high-protein, high fiber diet that aids in weight loss without calorie-counting. It is a diet that many believe is “coded for in our genes”. In other words, it is the food that our first ancestors ate, and it is the diet that our bodies were meant to eat. These people were “hunter-gatherers”. They ate animals that they could hunt, and fruits, leaves, roots, nuts and vegetables that they could readily pick and eat raw. Millions of years ago, people didn’t cook the plants that they ate. This eliminated a large source of non-nutritious and excessive calories that could have been available to them. For example, they didn’t eat grains, potatoes, or legumes (peanuts and beans). Grains, potatoes, and legumes all contain toxins that make them inedible to humans in their raw state. They also have a high glycemic value, which causes unhealthy sugar-spikes and high triglyceride levels.
About 10,000 years ago, people discovered that they could cook grains, potatoes, and legumes and thus make them edible to humans. The heat from cooking breaks down some of the toxins in the plants– but not all of them. This means when we consume these foods, even after cooking, we are actually ingesting substances that are toxic to our bodies. They make our pancreases work overtime and they strip our intestines of protective mucus, causing what is known as “leaky gut”. They may be responsible for some diseases like diabetes and cancer.
This is where the Paleo diet makes sense, because vegetables and fruits that can’t be eaten raw are excluded on this diet. This doesn’t mean that you HAVE to eat them raw, it just means that you shouldn’t consume them unless they can be eaten raw as well as cooked.
So let’s go over what to eat and what not to eat on the Paleo diet. Foods that are NOT allowed:
No packaged or processed foods
No grains of any kind (wheat, oatmeal, barley, millet, amaranth, quinoa, rice, etc.)
No potatoes, sweet potatoes, or cassava
No peanuts, cashews, peas, snow peas, or beans (pinto, kidney, black beans, green beans, etc.)
No refined sugar
No refined vegetable oils, like canola oil
BUT, look at all you CAN eat:
Lean meat, chicken, and fish—organic is best
Nuts and seeds like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and macadamia– NOT including peanuts and cashews
Healthy oils like olive and coconut
Vegetables—NO peas, potatoes, cassava, or sweet potatoes. Root vegetables are especially good, like carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas
As always, organic fruits and vegetables are best. Unfortunately this diet is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans, as it eliminates their sources of protein (beans, peanuts and other legumes, and protein-containing grains).
As far as beverages, water and tea are fine. Almond and coconut milk can be substituted for dairy milk. No juice or sugar-sweetened beverages are allowed, and artificially-sweetened drinks are discouraged.
It is recommended that you start this diet gradually, as it will be a major switch in the food that your body is used to, and it may make you a little tired in the beginning. Start with one meal a day and gradually work up to two meals, then three. Proponents of the diet say that your energy will increase as your body gets used to the diet and that you will lose weight, and your cholesterol and blood sugar levels will decrease.
Best of luck to you as you get healthier in the New Year!
Blessings to you,