The Paleo Diet: What It’s For And How It’s Done
The Paleo diet is a low-carbohydrate type of diet that promises a healthier, fitter you with minimal risk for many of the so-called “diseases of civilization” such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. The term “Paleo” is short for Paleolithic, a period of human history that’s over 10,000 years ago when the only sources of food for humans were those derived from basic hunting and gathering activities. Thus, the Paleo diet is also known as the hunter-gatherer diet, the caveman diet, or the Stone Age diet. The main food sources for this type of diet are fundamentally animal meats and food from plant sources, while all other processed foods and refined carbohydrates are generally restricted.
The nutritional concept of the Paleo diet rests on the assumption that the modern human is genetically adapted to how the Paleolithic, pre-agricultural humans ate, and has not changed much since the beginning of the agricultural revolution. Therefore, the ancestral diet that our Paleolithic ancestors followed—the one still not including breads, grains, and processed food—should be the ideal diet that provides us with optimal health and wellbeing. It was gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin who first popularized the concept and claim of the contemporary Paleo diet in the mid-1970s. The argument of the Paleo diet’s proponents is that people who follow the traditional Paleolithic diet are generally free of diseases of affluence that affect the modern man.
What to Eat
Designed to mimic the diet of pre-agricultural humans but banking on commonly available foods of today, the modern Paleo diet menu mainly consists of food derived from domestic animals and cultivated plants. If you’re planning to embark on this diet, you can expect to stock up on grass-fed pasture-raised meats, fish and seafood, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, mushrooms and roots, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices, and healthy oils such as olive, coconut, avocado, walnut, macadamia and flaxseed oil.
What to Avoid
The Paleo diet is based on a simple principle: If our Paleolithic era ancestors didn’t eat it, neither should you. And since the Paleolithic period was pre-agricultural, bread or anything made with grains are off-limits. Say your goodbyes to cereal grains, legumes, cheese and other dairy products, potatoes, refined sugars, processed foods, refined vegetable oils (except healthful oils with low omega-6 to omega-3 ratios, like canola and olive oil), and salt.
Basic Paleo diets typically offer three levels, gradually escalating from a less restrictive to a more restrictive diet plan. These levels differ in terms of the “degree of cheating” through the “open meals” they allow. For instance, on the entry level diet plan, three open meals per week are allowed. On the maintenance level, two open meals a week are allowed, and on the third or maximal level, only one open meal a week is permitted. You can start on any level you want, transition to higher levels depending on where you’re comfortable, or stay on a particular level of the diet as you please.
Do you think the concept of the Paleo diet is a sound one? Are you willing to follow its prescriptions for a healthier you, or is it too restrictive for your taste? Consider the health benefits versus the sacrifices you need to make, and decide whether the Paleodiet is the right one for you.