Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Paleo Diet

paleodiet1If you have been living on planet earth, there is a god chance you have heard someone mention the Paleo Diet (also nicknamed the caveman diet, primal diet, Stone Age diet, and hunter-gatherer diet…You get the picture).  The Paleo diet is believed to help you lose weight, save you from several diseases, and end obesity as we know it. Okay the later was me, but again you get the picture. The Paleo diet has been mentioned in the news; an abundance of websites has been dedicated to supplying information, and several books written about this diet.

So what is the Paleo diet?

 I could go through the whole scientific jargon (I mean explanation) of the Paleo Diet, but I much rather just get straight to the point. The Paleo Diet doesn't mean carving hunks of red meat off the bone, or hunting for the nearest Tyrantosaurus Rex.  Instead, the Paleo diet is an attempt to look beyond unhealthy modern food culture, and reap the benefits of eating the foods humans ate before there was potato chips, Twinkies, soda. In the words of the Paleo enthusiast "Foods we were built to eat". (i.e. proteins, fruits and vegetables) The Paleo diet, in a nutshell is a low carb diet with the premise that if  the cavemen (or women) ate it then you can eat it.
Loren Cordain, PhD, who actually wrote the book  "The Paleo Diet", claims that by eating like our prehistoric ancestors, we’ll be leaner and less likely to get diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. After reading more about the Paleo diet you will notice some familiarity to the Atkins Diet.

How does it work?

According to Loren Cordain, Ph.D. there are seven key fundamentals  to the Paleo Diet that will optimize your health, minimize the risk of chronic disease and cause you to lose weight.
  1. Eat a relatively high amount of animal protein compared to that in the typical American diet.
  2. Eat fewer carbohydrates than most modern diets. It is recommended to eat the good carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, not from grains or refined sugars.
  3. Eat a large amount of fiber from non-starchy fruits and vegetables.
  4. Eat a moderate amount of fat, with more good (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats than bad (saturated) fats, and nearly equal amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fats.
  5. Eat foods with a high potassium and low sodium content.
  6. Eat a diet which has a balance between acidic and no-acidic foods. 
  7. Eat foods rich in plant phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. (i.e.  green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, berries are usually plants rich in phytochemicals)
The extreme Paleo dieter (and there will always be an extremist in the bunch) would probably tell you that the above list of foods is all you can consume. However, after watching Dr. Oz, and hearing Nell Stephenson, the self-proclaimed original Paleoista. There is some flexibility in the diet. A full 100% commitment to the diet for 30 days is ideal but can be very difficult to sustain. That is why the plan allows for some cheat meals. You can indulge in three cheat meals a week.  Which means you can have that slice of chocolate cake, but only if you focus most of your meals on the Paleo plate. To read more about "The Paleo Plate and "Your Personal Paleo Code" click on the link to Dr. Oz's video


What you can eat

  1. Grass-produced meats
  2. Fish/Seafood
  3. Eggs
  4. Nuts and seeds
  5. Healthful oils (Olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut)

What can’t you eat?

  • Processed foods (anything in a bag or box)
  • Wheat
  • Grains and legumes (such as peanuts and beans).
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes
  • Salt
  • Refined vegetable oils, such as canola
  • Fried foods

 Is it safe?

Okay, now this is the tricky part about this diet. The main focus of the diet is to get you to eat lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruit, and to remove processed foods out of your diet. So how could a diet with those guidelines be bad for you? Critics of the Paleo Diet, (and yes there are always critics) point out what you may or may not know.
Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Colorado State University professor and author of The Paleo Diet told WebMD that there were “Clinical trials that showed the Paleo Diet is the optimum diet that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, markers of inflammation, help with weight loss, reduce acne, promote optimum health and athletic performance,"
However, according to Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, director of Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, points out that people who lived on this diet average age was 25, and following the plan was not good then and doesn't seem a good idea now. In addition, according to a U.S. News and World Report analysis, a panel of doctors and nutritionists determined that the diet was not a good choice for decreasing diabetes, improving heart health or losing weight.

What are the benefits of the Paleo Diet?

Whatever your feelings about the Paleo Diet are, there are some advantages. Eating whole foods, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, eliminating processed foods in my opinion are definite advantages.

 What are disadvantages the Paleo Diet?

Arguably, you may consider the disadvantages to the Paleo Diet are:
  1. It could get very pricey.
  2. The lack of grains; which are a great source of energy
  3. Soybeans, lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans and other legumes are high-fiber, low-fat sources of  potassium, iron and magnesium. They also are an essential source of protein for vegetarians.

Final Thoughts

 My thoughts about the Paleo diet is like with any other diet "Proceed with caution". At first glance the diet seems right on point, by adding lean meats, fruits and veggies, and healthy oils. Removing processed foods that, let's be honest are not good for you anyway. Not to mention, we should not be eating anyway.
However, when a diet eliminates  major food groups; such as dairy (I need my almond milk for smoothie making ) and grains, from your life completely or focuses solely on one food or food group ignoring all the rest it  makes me wonder. In addition, while doing the research I did not see where there was any mention of the importance of portion control.
I going to have to give it the  side eye. To be fair, I tend to give it all a side eye.  That is why I say proceed with caution; if you are thinking about following this diet do your research. Make sure this is something you can do and do safely.  Verify that you are not eliminating from your diet the one thing that you need, and of course GOOD LUCK!!
For more information about the Paleo Diet, there are a few resources I found very helpful: