What is the Paleo Diet and How it can Work for You

We live in an age of skyrocketing health insurance costs and mounting public health epidemics. Many American bodies can no longer fit comfortably in airplane seats, pass a few hours without monitoring insulin levels, or run outside during allergy season. We are increasingly technologically advanced yet the simple question “what should we eat for dinner tonight?” continues to stump families across the country. Since the answer is so convoluted, many Americans unknowingly make poor dietary choices for themselves and their families, leading to unnecessary illness.
The Dangers of Poor Health
According to the National Institute of Health:
·         The U.S. has one of the highest rates of cancer in the world.
·          68 percent of all American men over the age of 25 &
·         64 percent of all American women over the age of 25 are overweight.
·         73 million Americans have high blood pressure
·         34 million Americas have high cholesterol levels
·         17 million Americans have type 2 Diabetes
Is it surprising that this country ranks of 49 out of 52 developed countries for life expectancy?
The most amazing fact is that our country spends 16% of its GDP on healthcare, more than any other nation in the world, yet our families struggle with an ever-increasing amount of chronic health issues.
For most of us good health needs to be a choice. The first step to making that choice is an eating lifestyle that supports that decision.
The Paleo Diet: How to Achieve Simple, Easy Health
            The Paleo Diet is deservedly getting more press and exposure lately. It improves performance, increases fat loss, and helps mitigate chronic health problems. Once you understand the basics, it’s also pretty easy to do.
            In this first article, we’ll talk about Paleo fundamentals and some of the best ways to classify different foods. The classification of foods that we use here is based off of Paleo but unique, which we will explain later. What’s important to understand is that Paleo is really a broad diet philosophy as opposed to a set and rigid diet – or worse, a fad diet. Yes, there’s the book“The Paleo Diet” by Loren Cordain, but there are many other interpretations of Paleo and variations based on the “Hunter-Gatherer” template. If you want to understand the context of Paleo as a diet genre, check out my post “There Are MANY Different Paleo Diets.”

The main point of Paleo is to give our bodies the foods that they evolved to eat. The payoff being improved health, performance, longevity and superior digestion.
            Our genes have remained virtually unchanged for a long time. While there is some disagreement on the numbers, humans spent about 2.5 million years eating nothing but meat, vegetables, fruit, and little else. Only about 15,000 years ago that we moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture. This is when grains and dairy became widely available.
            Paleo theory says that our digestive systems and bodies are much better adapted to meat, fruit and vegetables than to things like grains, dairy, processed foods and the pesticides and hormones that get into our modern food. If you stop and think about the fact that two of the most common food sensitivities are to gluten and casein (a protein in cow milk), it makes sense.

Below is a food time line diagram from Adam Farrah’s book, “The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link.”

What’s a Paleo Diet?

Most of what you’ll find on Paleo will classify foods in two categories – Paleo and Not Paleo. This system is limiting. Instead we prefer Adam Farrah's 5 Paleo categories.

Here are Farrah's five categories of Paleo foods:

1) Foundational Paleo Diet Foods – Base Your Diet on These

Meats from animals fed their appropriate diet (cows fed grass, for example)
wild-caught fish
organic vegetables and fruits.

2) Foods of Early Agriculture – Foods to Consider Adding if Well-Tolerated

raw dairy
organic brown rice
fresh ground organic coffee

3) Paleo Foods to Use Sparingly

Starchy foods like yams and sweet potatoes best left to post-workout
concentrated foods like coconut milk, dried fruits, raw nuts and seeds, nut and seed milks and raw honey.

4) Supplements

Coconut oils and fish oils to round out the fat content in the diet
protein powders (if necessary, well tolerated and of high quality)
fiber supplements
certain nutrient supplements

5) Modern Foods – Avoid These

Processed foods
Processed grain products
Soy products
Beans and legumes
Roasted nuts
Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup products
Adam Farrah’s Five Food Categories Represented Graphically:

In Conclusion…
These are Adam Farrah's Paleo basics. In the next post, we’ll go more into the diet details and explain how to make Paleo work for you. While the Paleo diet is a great baseline, we aren't cavemen and women anymore. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we strive to adapt dietary lessons from the past to the realities of our present day.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Article excerpted from Adam Farrah, “A Practical Approach to the Paleo Diet, Part 1”