What to eat, how to eat, when and where to eat – who knew eating was going to get this complicated?
One of the newest, and arguably oldest, diets on the block right now is the Paleolithic Diet (aka Paleo). It is based on the idea that the human body hasn’t evolved to handle our modern-day food, which is why we have such high rates of obesity and chronic disease. Therefore, we need to go back to eating like our ancestors.
In a nutshell (and yes, nuts are allowed), Paleo eating focuses on meats and vegetables while avoiding grains, dairy and processed foods in general. More stringent followers also avoid legumes (like beans) and eat only organically raised meats and eggs. A great YouTube video that gives a background on the Paleo diet can be found at: Paleo in a Nutshell
The health benefits of this diet are just like all the health benefits of all diets - weight loss, clear skin and a reduction in symptoms of chronic diseases. The science is behind Paleo eating when it comes to avoiding excess grains and processed foods - this alone will help with weight loss. The claims that the diet is dangerous due to excessive protein intake, high saturated fat levels, and missing nutrients are up in the air; no one has conclusive evidence either way. My opinion? If this diet gets people eating less processed food, less sugar and more vegetables, then I think it’s a good idea to consider.
Here in Portland, dabbling with any diet can be incredibly easy. From gluten-free to vegan, we are so lucky to have restaurants and food carts to cater to our every nutritional whim. At Dick’s Kitchen in SE Portland, Paleo is the rule. With organic, grass-fed beef and locally sourced veggies, this menu is meant for the Paleo enthusiast and really, anyone who wants a good, clean meal.
As a Naturopathic doctor, I have to say that there is a lot I like about it. This diet reflects what a lot of my patients report back: that they feel better in a wide variety of ways when they avoid grains and dairy and eat more veggies. My husband and I have been on a slightly modified version of this for almost two months now and it’s been amazing to see the changes. Improved energy, weight loss and better digestive function have been some of perks I’ve been experiencing. We have noticed a near doubling in the amount of vegetables we eat, especially of leafy green veggies (which is my favorite part)!
When weighing the pros and cons of any diet, you have to set your own goals. Are you looking for a short-term change for weight loss? A long-term solution for a chronic disease? Or just a way of eating that gets you the nutrition you need? Just like each person is different, the perfect diet for each person is going to be different. Mindful eating - paying attention to what your body does when you eat something - is really the bottom line. Following a diet because of the promised rewards (such as weight loss) when you feel exhausted, weak and cranky just isn’t worth it.
As long as you reach for more fresh veggies than desserts, choose water over soda, and limit your intake of processed foods, you’re on the right track, whatever your goal may be.