06 Jun Guest Post: A Return to Our Roots – The Paleolithic Diet
By Alex Webb
There’s no question about it, we spend a large amount of our time each day either around food or thinking about food. In fact, according to a study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the United States spend on average 52.8 minutes a day on food preparation and cleanup (Hamrick & Shelley, 2005). Really though, is it any surprise that we’re so obsessed with food? It says something about our traditions, serves as a way to express personal tastes, and affects us physically. That’s why most people are so passionate about their food lifestyle such as being vegan, vegetarian, or gluten free. A food lifestyle that has become popular in recent years is the paleo (short for paleolithic) diet and it’s about time for a 101 course on it.
In a nutshell…
The paleo diet embraces foods that hunter-gatherers dined on. Many who engage in this lifestyle do so because they believe that humans are poorly adapted to eating many modern foods. Since our bodies aren’t well adjusted to these foods we suffer from a variety of health conditions. Foods paleo eaters consume include:
- Meat (including fish)
- Seasonal fruits
Paleo eaters avoid:
- Grains (even whole grains)
- Processed foods
- Most dairy
- Alcohol (usually)
Eating meat is cruel!
You may encounter the argument that the paleo diet is cruel to animals. The purpose of this diet is to mimic that of the hunter-gatherers and guess what – in those days there wasn’t factory farmed meat that was shot full of hormones, steroids, and antibiotics. Individuals who have chosen a paleo diet try to consume organic, grass-fed, and cage free meat. They also eat wild game or wild-caught fish.
The forbidden fruit
A lot of people think of fruit as a “free” food meaning it can be consumed without consequence. Unfortunately that isn’t accurate. Fruit can be very high in carbohydrates and sugar. Those on a paleo diet consume seasonal fruit and generally stick to fruit that is low in sugar such as berries.
Which foods to avoid and which to consume isn’t a black and white topic among the paleo population. For instance, some paleo eaters avoid dairy all together while others eat only certain dairy products such as grass-fed butter, yogurt, and cheese. Furthermore, some paleo eaters completely abstain from the consumption of white potatoes and stick strictly with sweet potatoes. There are many other foods up for debate as well.
So it’s like a low carb diet or Atkins?
Despite the usage of the word “diet” paleo eating is a food lifestyle (like being a vegan). It isn’t geared towards helping individuals lose weight. Unlike the paleo diet, Atkins is more concerned with restricting the carbohydrates someone consumes in order to produce weight loss than the quality of food being consumed. While people on the paleo diet do tend to consume less carbohydrates than your average person it’s simply because they avoid grains and processed foods.
Going paleo is a big step. Simply removing grain from your diet will completely change the way you eat and shop. Try easing into it by removing one “bad” item at a time. The first step is to detox your kitchen. Don’t keep temptation around!
Once you’re immersed in the paleo diet give it a full 30-day trial run. Keep in mind that the first 10 days or so are going to be hard. You’re sure to have cravings for that morning doughnut or face temptation at the office. Don’t give up! Make it past that hump before making a decision to stick with the paleo diet or not.
On a more personal note….
I’m not going to promise you that the paleo diet is a miracle cure for all of your ailments including obesity. Here’s why: the truth is I don’t know. I can’t know. We’re all different and what works for one person may or may not work for another. The best you can do is try it out and see if it’s a fit. Make sure to consult a medical professional before making major changes to your diet or exercise routine.
There are a lot of foods out there to try. You shouldn’t be afraid to get out there and experience new things. You may just surprise yourself. If you’re trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, the paleo diet may be just the ticket. Use this article as a starting point for your paleo education.
Article contributed by Alex Webb on behalf of Sports Medicine Cincinnati Tristate Orthopaedic Treatment Centers. Alex Webb is a home improvement show addict with a passion for writing. She has been a vegetarian for over a year and is now giving the paleo diet a try. As just a novice cook she is quite proud of her recent achievement of learning to boil water without burning it.