Understanding the Paleo Diet
The Paleo diet is gaining popularity amongst an ever-growing group of health and fitness enthusiasts in the West. Also called the caveman diet, stone-age diet, and hunter-gatherer diet, this diet propagates an eating philosophy centered around the way our ancestors ate for 200000 years before grains and processed food entered our lives. You guessed it - Paleo is derived from the the 'Paleolithic' era that ended 10000 years ago. So what is this paleo diet and how can it help you get fit? Let's find out...
The main principles on which the Paleo diet is based: Since agriculture and therefore grains did not exist for almost 250000 years, human beings were accustomed to eating fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and vegetables for sustainance. In the last 10000 years our bodies have not adapted to the drastic lifestyle changes, as evolution is a slow and gradual process. Therefore, diabetes, obesity, heart problems etc. today are major health concerns due to the onset of highly processed foods. Processed sugar, grains, flour, and other modern foods are new additions to our diet, which the human body has not yet adapted to properly - according to the Paleo diet supporters - and thus the onset of these modern ailments.
What can you eat if you follow the Paleo diet? You can eat meat, chicken, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables (especially root vegetables, but definitely not including potatoes or sweet potatoes), nuts, eg. walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia, almonds. Peanuts (a bean) or cashews (a family of their own) are not allowed. Berries- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc are definite diet must-haves. Try to increase your intake of: Root vegetables- carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, Swedes, and organ meats- liver and kidneys.
What not to eat? Grains- including bread, pasta, noodles, beans- including string beans, kidney beans, lentils, peanuts, snow-peas and peas, potatoes, dairy products, and sugar.
A typical day when on a Paleo diet looks like this:
- Wake up in the morning and scramble a couple of eggs, eat some fruits with yoghurt, and maybe some coffee or tea with minimal milk.
- For lunch, carry a packed salad with dressing and be on your way.
- For your evening snack – nuts and seeds are the best.
- For dinner – Grilled fish, or chicken, or steak with lots and lots of green vegetables.
This is a low carb and high protein diet. Since all your carbs are going to be coming from vegetables and not other sources it’s important to eat lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Animal fat is a must as this is also going to be a source of energy.
Is the Paleo diet healthy? Since the Paleo diet involves cutting down on processed foods, unnatural foods, and highly cooked food, but mainly relies on getting nutrition from real food only, it is definitely healthy. Having said that, most people who embark on this diet, do feel drained initially because they cut back on carbs and rely on fats and protein as a source of energy But most people report to feeling lots more energetic than ever before once the first couple of weeks have passed and their body has changed its metabolism to burning fat as the primary source of energy. Followers also report that over time, their craving for sweets and salt diminishes.
Final Take: Like all drastic changes in diets and lifestyle, we recommend that you ease yourself into this diet if it interests you and slowly cut back on carbs and processed foods. Like everything else, no extreme is the right way to go, so your approach should be to modify and change depending upon your needs and lifestyle.
Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images