While it is usually referred to as the Paleo diet, Paleo is really more of a way of life. It is meant to move people away from processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle to get back in touch with the way our ancestors lived. Essentially, this means a diet of unprocessed foods that were eaten during the Paleolithic period (before agriculture was developed and humans began to experience autoimmune and chronic diseases).
Those who adopt the Paleo lifestyle also incorporate daily exercise into their routines. They either walk or bike as much as possible, or may regularly engage in a sport (rock climbing, for example). Another example of a lifestyle change is the reduction of one’s “carbon footprint” by only consuming locally sourced goods and adopting other energy saving measures.
Other parts of holistic Paleo practice include:
- getting adequate sleep/rest
- no food within three hours of bedtime/after dusk
- protected sun exposure
- regularly “unplug” from electronics (“no ‘screens’ after dusk”)
- manage stress
- be part of a community (no, your social media contacts don’t count!)
While some of these practices may appear to have nothing to do with your overall carb intake, researchers have noted that people who don’t get adequate rest tend to overindulge in carb-laden, processed foods and eat late in the day. They often crave the energy boost of simple sugars. The “no screens,” stress management, and other practices are designed to work in concert to help reduce your cravings and help you get the rest you need.
So what can you eat on the Paleo diet?
Basically, those who follow the Paleo diet eat
- wild sourced (not farmed) seafood
- grass-fed meats
- most nuts
- in-season fruits, local vegetables and certain fats (“coconut or olive oil; ghee; lard”)
The big challenge is to eliminate dairy; grains (including rice and oats); legumes; processed foods (including refined sugar). Cheese, milk, oatmeal and even peanuts simply weren’t around prior to the advent of an agricultural system. Coffee, chocolate, fruit juice and alcohol are also forbidden or restricted (there is a variety of opinion on those admonitions). Paleo practitioners also consume lots of water!
According to the proponents of this style of eating, our bodies simply aren’t designed to digest grains, dairy and other processed foods. Consuming these foods has not just added to a collective weight problem, but also to a long list of avoidable health problems.
As with any diet, there are those who claim that Paleo is simply another trend. One of the major arguments against Paleo is that it minimizes the fact that our bodies have significantly evolved since the Paleolithic period. There is some evidence that our bodies have adjusted as new foods, such as beans and grains, have been introduced.
Researchers advise that paleo practitioners will derive significant health benefits if they follow the diet in consultation with a registered dietitian. “Contemporary diets based upon Paleolithic food groups maintained both trace and macronutrient qualities known to reduce the risk of a variety of chronic diseases in western populations.”¹
This is especially true if the individual had formerly consumed a carb-laden Western diet (including dairy, processed foods and alcohol). The logic behind the diet may be the subject of debate, but the basic idea that eating more protein, fruits and vegetables is probably something you have heard before from your doctor.
It’s always advisable to ask your doctor before changing your diet. He or she may recommend a nutritional consultation and order lab tests prior to approving the new regimen.
As with any dietary change, you may experience some gas and bloating. To relieve these symptoms and enjoy a smooth transition into the Paleo lifestyle, use the dietary supplement CharcoCaps®.
1. The Nutritional Characteristics of a Contemporary Diet Based Upon Paleolithic Food Groups
PALEO 101 What Is Paleo?