Paleo. Some call it a “fad diet.” Many associate it with uber-lean, muscle-bound Crossfit-types. It’s been confused with Atkins and the low-carb craze. It’s philosophical underpinnings have been the subject of TED talks and scathing critiques throughout the media. Maligned by vegetarians and vegans, this juggernaut diet trend isn’t going anywhere.
The Paleo Diet is here to stay.
You may be curious about it yourself. You have a coworker or neighbor or fifth cousin-twice removed who lost a ton of weight and swears by it. Or maybe you are thinking that any diet where bacon is heartily embraced is your kind of diet. Perhaps you are enticed by the idea of not having to count calories and still losing weight.
Is The Paleo Diet the right choice for you?
Despite what the detractors say, the Paleo diet is not about trying to recreate the life of a caveman. We can, however, gain some important insights into how our bodies function best by looking to our past. The fact is there is a lot of very modern scientific research that backs up this intuitive & ancestral approach to eating. That’s why having my patients adopt a Paleo-type diet is one of the first steps in their nutritional treatment protocol. It’s about more than just rock hard abs. Here’s why I recommend it and why I think you should do it too:
- Nutrient-density. The Paleo Diet is the most nutrient dense diet on the planet. A paper published by Mat LaLonde, a chemistry professor at Harvard, showed that for the same number of calories, a Paleo Diet contained more vitamins, minerals and essential fats than the SAD (Standard American Diet.) Not especially surprising, but what was enlightening is that even when he tried to add dairy or whole grains, he could not come up with more vitamins & minerals without adding more calories. This raw data for this came straight from the USDA’s own database of the nutritional content of foods. When you give the body the nutrients it needs, it doesn’t crave more empty calories in a misguided attempt to get them. While eating a nutrient-dense, whole-foods diet, most people spontaneously lower their calorie consumption, without trying or having to resort to willpower.
- Anti-inflammatory. Wheat, dairy, soy and peanuts (a legume) are common allergens, yet are absent from a typical Paleo diet. Gluten in particular has been shown to increase the amount of an inflammatory protein in the gut called zonulin. This protein opens up spaces between cells of the gut lining called tight junctions. When these tight junctions are opened up, it leads to a leaky gut. (In the scientific literature this is referred to as ‘increased intestinal permeability.) Pieces of undigested proteins than cross the gut lining where they meet the GALT- Gut Associated Lymphoid Tissue. Made up of the same white blood cells as the rest of your immune system, its estimated that up 70% of your immune system is hanging out in your gut. When the GALT starts having to react to pieces of undigested protein, it creates inflammation, both in the gut itself as well as the rest of your body. If you have aches or pains, brain fog or memory loss, depression or hormone imbalances (all of which can be caused by inflammation), you really should give the Paleo diet a try.
- Whole-foods based. We can argue all day long about what cavemen did or didn’t eat and whether those foods still really exist, but at the end of the day I think we can all agree that whole-foods are way better and more nutritious for you than anything processed. Fresh meats and eggs from pastured and grassfed animals, wild seafood, plenty of vegetables in an array of colors and some fruits. Nuts and seeds. These are not controversial health foods, they’re just common sense.
- Sustainability. Diets that leave you hungry and starved are not sustainable. For sustained fat loss and long-term recovery from inflammatory conditions, a diet has to be one that you can follow over the long haul. There are so many resources now; the number of Paleo cookbooks has exploded in recent years and the number of Paleo recipe blogs has grown exponentially. There really is no legitimate reason for getting bored on the Paleo Diet.
- Lifestyle Factors. There’s more to health & fitness than just food, yet so many ‘diets’ fail to account for this. Many people will say that Paleo isn’t just a diet, it’s lifestyle. What that means is that food is just the start. Beyond diet, a healthy lifestyle should also include plenty of quality, restorative sleep, stress management, frequent movement & exercise, good posture & alignment, relaxation and time in nature. To heal from a chronic disease, all of these factors must be addressed.
Is Paleo the right choice for you? I think it happens to be the right choice for anyone who wants to build or maintain their health. Want some help getting started on your journey to more energy, less fatigue, clearer skin and less pain? Call my office today at 845-687-6387. I help people like you implement and tailor a Paleo approach to meet their health goals.
January is just around the corner. If you have been thinking of starting a Paleo diet as part of your commitment to get healthier in the coming year, but are a bit overwhelmed or unsure how to get started, check out my New Year, New You! whole-foods based cleanse program. To learn more, click here.