Did you know that you’re, basically, still a “cave” man or woman? And that if you ate the kind of diet your ancient ancestors did you’d be healthier, look younger, have more muscle mass, more energy and live longer? You may be knitting your eyebrows wondering if all that’s too good to be true, but let me explain why it is.
The Paleo-Diet Helps You Lose Weight, Stay Younger and Healthier
Even in our technologically advanced age in 2013, the human body is, however, not as advanced. Your body is, basically, still the same old model humans had during the Paleolithic era when we hunted and gathered our food from our surroundings. It wasn’t until the end of that era that the Egyptians invented “agriculture”, reaping and processing wheat and other grains. That’s when grains were introduced to our former grain-less, or very minimal grains, diet.
But, the problem was then, as it is now, that our bodies were not really suited to abruptly switch over from what we were eating to a largely grains-based diet. And, for the most part, we still haven’t. Humans are not really able to tolerate the different chemical make-up of grains. There’s much more phytic acid in them, for example, which can inhibit the absorption of several important minerals.
This means that our bodies aren’t getting enough of crucial minerals we need to prevent disease like chromium (diabetes), iron (anemia, B12 deficiencies), selenium and iodine (thyroid disease). And these are a just a few…
So, instead of being a boon to human survival, eating grains started to create illnesses in humans that they didn’t have before like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay (old skeletons prove it) intestinal disease, even a loss in height. In fact, the more technologically advanced in agriculture humans became, and the more grains we started eating, the more these diseases have progressed to the epidemic levels they are today.
Just look at the typical USDA food pyramid that recommends 11-12 servings of grains per day with the “paleo” type foods we used to eat (meat, eggs, chicken, fats) recommended in much smaller portions.
Here are some of the health benefits cited by many paleo fans:
1. Weight loss. No grains or refined sugars normalizes insulin levels and allows you to burn stored fat. People with type 2 diabetes have often been able to go off their medications, while type 1 insulin-dependent diabetics have been able to decrease their insulin usage.
2. Younger looking, tighter skin. Increasing protein as well as better vitamin/mineral absorption boosts collagen production in your skin which helps keep your skin tight.
3. Digestive problems minimize, or disappear. Grains irritate the digestive tract and cause inflammation.
4. Better cholesterol numbers. Decreases inflammation throughout your body, lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol, and improve HDL “good” cholesterol.
5. Asthma, heart disease symptoms decrease.
The Paleo Diet – What To Eat, What To Avoid
With paleo eating, it helps to remember that if it doesn’t naturally grow in the ground, or can be picked off a plant or tree (vegetables, fruits, tubers) or feeds off grasses (cows, chicken, turkey, pigs) than it’s probably too “modern” for the paleo diet.
What To Eat
1. Protein Sources: Beef, eggs, poultry, fish, pork, goat, lamb, game meats (bison, bear, deer). Go for grass fed products, though.
2. Carb sources: All vegetables including sea vegetables like seaweed, edible algaes, and potatoes (sweet and regular), snap peas. All fresh fruits (no canned in syrup). If you need to lose weight, limit your starchy vegetables like potatoes to 1 serving per day, and stick to 2 lower sugar fruit servings (berries, apricots, plums) per day.
3. Nuts and seeds: All mixed nuts and seeds. No peanuts – they’re legumes and not allowed. Buy or make “nut” butters like almond, sunflower seed, to eat on apples.
4. Fats: Good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, tallow (rendered beef fat), lard (rendered pork fat), and nut oils (walnut, macadamia).
5. Enjoy in Moderation: No-sugar chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, tea, alcohol (especially dark red wines), sweeteners (honey, stevia).
What To Avoid
1. ALL grains. Wheat, corn, oats, rice, quinoa, amaranth and even gluten-free grains. None. Zero. If you find it too hard to quit your grain habit all at once, start to decrease your intake per day until you can cut it out completely.
2. Legumes. This family of food are all beans, peas (snap peas are okay), peanuts.
3. Dairy. Many strict paleo followers omit dairy, but others include cheese as there’s no sugar in it, and/or whey protein powders. If you’re concerned about calcium intake, almond milk has 45% calcium per 8 ounce serving.
4. Omega-6 fats. These are typically “vegetable” oils, yet they’re not really made from vegetables. They’re made from corn, soy, cottonseed – grains. These oils promote inflammation throughout the body which leads to disease.
5. Franken Foods. These are all processed foods in boxes, wrappers, etc. Yet, some health food outlets do carry some processed foods that are paleo-friendly. This includes artificial sweeteners like Splenda, aspartame, saccharin.
6. No table sugar. Period.
Many researchers have concluded that, to reverse our current human disease picture, restore health, fitness and longevity, it is essential for humans to return to the way of eating that our bodies are most in synch with – a Paleolithic way of eating.
You can ease into the paleo way of eating by cutting down on grains and other non-paleo foods until you feel you can omit them altogether. There are also others who eat a modified paleo diet (including some dairy) and still are enjoying the positive health benefits of it. For more information on amazing recipes you can click: Paleo-diet Principles.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.