For those of you with allergies or food intolerances – eliminating various foods and food groups is not a new concept. The Paleo diet has attracted much media attention recently, both positive and negative. For some, Paleo is very much in vogue whilst others speculate that it is extreme and dangerous – so is it just another fad? What is it really about?
Put simply, the Paleo diet is modelled on the diet of our ancestors, from thousands of years ago before industrialisation and the introduction of modern agriculture. Rather than improving our health – these modern practices have sent much of the world into epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and what I see most of in clinic these days – autoimmunity.
Thousands of years ago, the ‘paleolithic diet’ was a hunter-gatherer approach to eating – of course today we do little of either, so one might argue that this dietary approach may not suit our modern lives? Let’s take a closer look at what a Paleo diet consists of.
The primary attribute of the modern Paleo diet is the inclusion of plenty of vegetables. Secondary to this, moderate amounts of animal protein and the inclusion of healthy fats and fermented foods. The focus is on fresh, seasonal and locally grown organic fruit and veggies. Animal proteins are organic, grass-fed, pasture raised and sustainably sourced. That’s it – it is a diet that focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods. It omits common allergens and foods that tend to irritate and cause inflammation – this includes all grains, dairy, legumes and processed foods. So what’s in a name? I imagine that this dietary outline does not differ too much from that which I would have advised many of you at one point or other?! So is this way of eating extreme? Is cutting out major food groups like grains and dairy going to result in epidemics of nutritional deficiency? Unlikely. The bulk of our nutrients come from our vegetables, not from grains or dairy. This includes your B vitamins, magnesium and calcium – nutrients that you may be depending on from grain and dairy sources.
Does the diet require you to eat loads of meat? No. This is a common misconception. The recommended serve of protein per meal is the size and thickness of your palm. This follows the same guideline as the national nutritional authorities.
So what’s off the list? – All dairy, grains (wheat, barley, rye, corn, rice, oats etc) legumes and processed foods.
What about carbohydrates for energy? – Think veggies:) Sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot, parsnip, swede, turnip – dense in starch that will provide ample carbohydrates. Healthy fats are also used as a source of fuel and to promote satiety (a sense of fullness)
What can I eat?! – Plenty. All meats, veggies, 1-2 pieces of fruit daily, nuts, seeds, eggs. This way of eating encourages loads of good fat. Most of us come from a dietary paradigm that is obsessively fat-conscious. The mantra ‘calories in, calories out’ has been drummed into us for decades! The biggest challenge that I face when recommending this way of eating is encouraging people to eat lots of good fat as I’m often met with much resistance. Most hormones in your body are made of fat, more than 50% of your brain is fat, our nerves are insulated in fat and many physiological processes, including nutrient absorption require the presence of fat in order to be effective. A diet rich in healthy fats can actually aid weight loss in most individuals! Of course this principle only applies if you avoid grain and dairy consumption:) Remember that when it comes to weight loss – it is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Keeping fit is important for our heart, our immunity and our mental well-being but actually contributes very little to weight loss for most people.
Would this way of eating suit me? – If you suffer from allergies or food intolerances, hormonal imbalance, weight gain, fatigue, an inflammatory or autoimmune condition, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease – it is worth giving this diet a go.
Is this way of eating suitable for everyone? – For obvious reasons this diet is not suited to vegans and strict vegetarians. Beyond these categories I would encourage that you speak to one of our naturopaths as to whether it would suit you.
From a professional perspective, I have had many people follow this style of eating – though never labelled as ‘paleo’ and the results always speak for themselves. It is simply a diet high in fresh whole foods and void of the processed and problematic ones that most allergies are associated with. I have already spoken about the health ramifications of excessive grain consumption (you can view it here: http://www.vitanaturalhealth.com.au/health-topics/whats-the-fuss-about-grains.html)
If you’re interested in exploring this way of eating and need more information, we are happy to help!
Wishing you the best of health,