If you’re interested in tweaking the way you eat for weight loss and/or healthy living, chances are you’ve stumbled across the Paleo diet more than once. In fact, it’s everywhere!! And a good thing that it is.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic and also referred to as the caveman/primal/hunter-gatherer diet, is a diet based on what our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic era up until the Agricultural Revolution 7-10,000 years ago. Below is a list of what you’ll find in most Paleo diets, with slight variations.
- grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and poultry
- nuts & seeds
- healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, organic butter, ghee, olive oil, fish oil)
- berries & seasonal fruits
- seasonal vegetables
What’s Not Included
- processed food & oils
Why Should I Give This Diet A Go
The argument to eating this way is that during this period, ailments prevalent in today’s world such as heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes and auto-immune diseases were nonexistent. And in terms of our physiology, the human genome can only evolve around 0.2 percent every 10,000 years…perhaps too recently for the human genome to adjust on an evolutionary timescale. This has resulted, sadly, in the before mentioned diseases, plus also depression, Alzheimer’s, infertility and food intolerances.
Makes sense, huh?
Plus there have been numerous studies that support the Paleo approach, including moving the way our ancestors did, which I’ve written about here.
The Paleo Conundrum
With the risk of now confusing you, where this diet becomes a little grey however, is that not all our ancestors ate this way. As Chris Kresser points out in a post he wrote on this very subject..
As recent studies have revealed, we can’t really know what our ancestors ate with 100% certainty, and there is undoubtedly a huge variation amongst different populations. For example, we have the traditional Inuit and the Masai who ate a diet high in fat (60-70% of calories for the Masai and up to 90% of calories for the Inuit), but we also have traditional peoples like the Okinawans and Kitavans that obtained a majority (60-70% or more) of their calories from carbohydrate. So it’s impossible to say that the diet of our ancestors was either “low-carb” or “low-fat”, without specifying which ancestors we’re talking about.
This Is What I Think About The Paleo Diet
In my experience working as a personal trainer and health coach for nearly 6 years now, I’ve definitely noticed the best health & fitness results (including that of myself) come from those who stick to a low-carb, high protein and fat diet, to the likes of the Paleo diet. I personally have never felt better. When I advise my clients to eat the Paleo way, they almost immediately experience increased energy and get much leaner and stronger. However, every now and again I do coach someone who does very well on a high-carb (more fruit, veggies, and gluten-free carbs such as brown rice and quinoa), low protein and fat diet, or a mixed diet. A lot of this depends on your Primal Pattern Diet Type, which I help clients determine through my CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coaching.
This Is How I Eat
Like Chris Kresser, I prefer to not be so rigid by only eating the above list of acceptable foods. Instead of following a Paleo diet, I like to follow more of a Paleo template which allows for a little more individuality and flexibility. I listen to my body and know when I’m having too much of something or if I need to cut it out completely.
My diet consists predominantly of, and organic where possible: grass-fed red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, leafy greens & cruciferous veges (lots of ’em!), quinoa, nuts, berries, coconut oil/cream/yoghurt, butter, olive oil, fish oil, Himalayan salt, stevia or rice malt syrup if I need a sweetener, herbal teas, apple cider vinegar, fermented veggies, lots of herbs & spices especially cinnamon and turmeric!
I occasionally have for variety: sweet potato, pumpkin, sprouted essene rye bread (I tolerate this grain well due to the long sprouting process making it more easily digested and naturally very low in gluten), organic full-fat dairy (cow/sheep/goat milk yoghurt & cheese), red wine, coffee, raw chocolate.
I avoid as much as possible: processed foods, refined sugar, wheat & gluten, trans fats & industrial seed oils, refined salt, soy.
What If I Have Food Intolerances
Then the strict Paleo diet will probably work well for you if you’re intolerant to the main offenders – dairy, wheat & gluten. With dairy, I would encourage you to have predominantly organic and keep it fairly limited. I’ve read that people with dairy intolerances do fine on raw milk, however some believe too much bacteria is present.
If you’re intolerant to gluten, you could try carefully preparing your grains to break down this difficult to digest protein and to neutralise the phytic acid, however it is still going to be a carb at the end of the day!
You might like to watch the video below that I found on the Weston A Price website, that explains how to properly prepare grains and legumes.
So as you can see, my approach is still relatively Paleo but with a little carefully monitored flexibility. I like to feel and look good, so I’m smart with my choices. I am realistic though, and don’t beat myself up when I have the occasional blow-out dinner with friends! Moderation is the key 🙂