What is Paleo and Should You Be Doing It?
There are few terms in our modern world that provoke as much controversy and debate as this one. Sugar would have to be the closest competitor and you can read my thoughts on that here.
Paleo / Caveman / Ancestral / Hunter & Gatherer / Stone Age
….. and I am sure a host of other names that evoke solid feelings of our collective beginnings on this Earth.
The most logical thing to do firstly is to clarify what on earth is Paleo?
Keeping it as simple as possible, as its’ core, Paleo focuses on eating whole, unprocessed foods such as grass-fed meat, free range poultry, wild fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Grains, legumes, refined sugars and sometimes dairy are on the to-avoid list, mainly due to the inflammatory properties of such foods and to control insulin sensitivity.
The Paleo lifestyle; as it is mostly referred to; draws it’s core principles from our ancestors who ate whole, unprocessed foods, moved more, slept better and stressed less.
Sounds reasonable right?
One of Australia’s leading Paleo experts, Irena Macri from Eat Drink Paleo has this to say:
“It’s not about re-enacting the Paleolethic era – in fact most in the Paleo community hate the term ‘Caveman diet’ – but rather recognising our genetic predisposition and applying current knowledge of how different foods and activities affect our body’s functions like metabolism, digestion, insulin sensitivity, and systemic inflammation.”
So for the average person, how different does the Paleo lifestyle look then?
Broken down, here are a few key points for comparison…
To clarify, low-carb and a Paleo lifestyle, refers to the exclusion of grains and refined sugars though carbohydrates are still consumed via vegetables, fruits, nuts and dairy. Where you see “fat,” it refers to the glorious, saturated kind. Olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, avocados, eggs, fish etc etc… Lastly, the meat-obsessed image of a Paleo lifestyle is far from the reality. It’s important to remember that there are varying levels and interpretations of everything in life.
The Paleo belief behind carbs and fat is that our ancestors consumed no grains and their predominant source of fuel was instead from protein and fat. Although these points are fact, what is also fact is that our digestion has evolved since that time. The introduction of grains altered our composition and subsequently our digestion, if it hadn’t we would all be keeling over every time we ate bread, fruit salad or baked potatoes.
So the often feared term (in our modern world) of low-carb is perhaps the most confronting when it comes to the discussion of Paleo? Look around your home or workplace, the carb-centric modern lifestyle is most certainly evident.
What I find really interesting around this debate, is in a time that is the worst in human history when it comes to preventable disease; we are so quick to jump on a bandwagon. The next “big thing,” the diet “we should all be living by,” and the “solution to every problem” when in reality this is very rarely the case. Often what is overlooked is that the people telling you such things have something to gain from such a position, even if not entirely clear at the time.
People may say they live a certain way, be it Paleo, sugar-free or what have you and the reality is that this is not always fact. They may eat big hunks of meat when we are looking though they may also gorge on bowls literally overflowing with pasta when we aren’t.
Now of course I am being completely over the top with my example (or am I?) though my point is this – the hard facts and what is really happening are not always the same. Tougher still, the reality is often very hard to find.
Don’t get me wrong, none of us knows it all (despite them telling you so) and as such when we stumble across new information, sometimes we want to try it out for ourselves. In fact, this is precisely how I know all that I know about my own body and health in general. I try new things. I also have in the past, taken things way too far, so although this has taught me a lot, I also know a thing or two on this subject…
The Paleo world is not too far from my neighbourhood, one where wholefoods rule the roost, I eat what I love, make it myself and where the 90/10 rule works really well.
I love plants and they form the basis of my diet each and every day.
I call that caveman!
Less crap, less processed, less white food and less packets gets a huge tick from me and most people who care about their health and the health of others.
Although I can not quite bring myself to cook with or consume ghee just yet (clarified butter) I absolutely can attest to 2 Paleo facts rocking my world:
- Moderate protein consumption for growth, satiety and strength (in all manners)
- High fat consumption for all around pleasure and happiness
However this is “my” world, not yours and the comparison ends there.
Interested in the Paleo lifestyle?
Learn about it (not just from me) and if you want, plan to introduce the methods into your world.
Dependent on the point of your journey, go slowly and maybe only change one thing at a time, and I say this for two reasons – manageability and better assessment. If you drastically change anything, how on Earth do you cope when you have a tough day and the new lifestyle all falls in a big heap OR when you feel amazing and are unsure as to exactly why…
Like everything in life, there is no one diet that will work the same for each of us. The absolute best thing you can do for your health and wellbeing is to learn and be open to trying new things. Instead of simply “going Paleo,” pay attention to how you feel when you include or exclude certain foods; and not just physically.
Here is to you finding a higher level of health and wellbeing for yourself and your own journey.
Should you have a Paleo story to share with us, we would love to hear it below. Your insight will no doubt help others on the same path.