Using the Paleo Diet as a template for eating healthy is a good place to start. Eating a Paleo Diet can give you more energy, help you lose weight, and give you more mobility and less pain.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet is a modern way of eating that simulates, as close as possible, how our ancestors ate prior to The Paleolithic Era. The Paleolithic Era lasted about 2.5 million years and ended about 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture. Humans lived over millions of years under environmental conditions that helped shape our genes. This included eating mainly meat, vegetables, fruits, and tubers.
Our genes haven’t changed enough for us to adapt to a modern day diet that is comprised largely of cereals, breads, pastas, sugars, and industrial seed and vegetable oils. So a diet similar to our ancestors that supports our genes is the one that tends to make us the most healthy.
Our Current State of Health…Sick, Fat, and Unhappy People
Chronic illnesses have been increasing since humans started farming (agricultural revolution).(1) This includes but not limited to: blood sugar problems, obesity, heart disease and strokes, high blood pressure, brain degenerative diseases, depression, arthritis, and hypothyroidism. So even though Canadians are living longer on average than they used to (life expectancy of 77 years of age in 1990 and 82 years of age in 2012), the last 20-30 years of life can be a challenge because most of us are burdened or will be burdened by a chronic illness (65% at present and greater than 75% by 2030) (2, 3). And one of the biggest reasons for this increase in chronic illness is our poor diet. Refined flour, sugar, and vegetable oils make up more than 50% of the total daily calories consumed by the average person in the industrial world today. (4)
Our Ancestor’s Health…Robust, Lean, and Fit
Anthropological evidence indicates modern chronic degenerative illnesses were rare or nonexistent in our ancestral populations. (5) The evidence also shows they were 5-6” taller, had very good teeth, and had larger skulls and pelvises.(6) Modern day hunter and gatherers have also been studied and have far fewer chronic illnesses than Western populations. They also have better oxygen consumption, better vision, and stronger bones. Unlike us, our ancestors did not die of chronic diseases. Although our ancestors did, on average, die younger than we do presently, they died younger because of high infant death rates, harsh environmental conditions, violence and accidents, infectious diseases, and lack of medical care.
Health Benefits of Eating A Paleo Diet
Eating well is one of the important pieces of the puzzle for getting and staying healthy. I struggled with low blood sugar issues for approximately 40 years. I learned in my late 20’s how to manage the problem, but it wasn’t until I was 43 and starting using the Paleo Diet as my basis for eating that I was able to stabilize my low blood sugar problem permanently. Miraculously it took less than a week to do it. I was amazed and it was very freeing for me. No longer did I have to rely on 6 meals a day as I could function very well with 2-3 meals a day. My sleep improved, I lost 10-15 pounds, and no longer did I have fluctuating moods and energy. My clinical and educational experience tells me that everyone will respond differently to the Paleo Diet when they introduce it into their lives. It does, however, provide a solid foundation for a diet which can be tweaked based on your unique genetic make up, your state of health/health conditions, your level of activity, life circumstances, and goals. Here is a short list of benefits:
- More energy
- Better moods
- Stable blood sugar levels
- Better sleeps
- Better skin
- Better focus and concentration
- Healthy Weight
May provide relief for:
- Blood sugar problems
- Cardiovascular disease
- Auto-immune disorders
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
What’s on the “Modern Day” Paleo Diet Food List? And what foods should you avoid
For the sake of keeping this article readable and short, I’m not going to get into too much detail here about why each of these paleo food groups promote better health and why you should avoid the typical North American food staples. I will share that in future blog articles. But know this, the “Avoid COMPLETELY” list typically creates too much inflammation throughout the body and this is what will cause most of the chronic degenerative illnesses I have mentioned. A caveat to this is dairy. Dairy is highly nutritious but some people can not tolerate it well. So if you can tolerate it, (determined by eliminating it, reintroducing it, and observing if you develop adverse symptoms or not) keep enjoying it.
- Grass-fed and wild meats
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Healthy oils (olive,walnut, flax seed, macadamia, avocado, coconut, palm)
- Healthy fats (pork lard, duck fat, beef tallow, chicken fat, butter)
- Cereal grains (bread, pastas, cereal, crackers)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Industrial seed and vegetable oils (canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean, corn, peanut, cottonseed)
*consume if you can tolerate
Now I’d like to hear from you: Have you experienced benefits from eating a Paleo Style of diet? Or perhaps you had challenges with it. If so, did you consult a health practitioner versed in the paleo dietary principles to help overcome those obstacles so you could experience the benefits?