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. Our nation spends 16% of its GDP on healthcare, more than any other nation in the world, yet our families struggle with increasingly dangerous ailments.
The Dangers of Poor Health
According to the National Institute of Health, the U.S. has:
- 5 times more children with ADD and ADHD then any country in the world.
- one of the highest rates of cancer in the world
- a rank of 49 out of 52 developed countries for life expectancy.
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.
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.
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.”
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 , 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 “.”
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.
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)
organic vegetables and fruits.
2) Foods of Early Agriculture – Foods to Consider Adding if Well-Tolerated
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.
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 grain products
Beans and legumes
Sugar and high-fructose corn syrup products
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.
Article excerpted from Adam Farrah, “A Practical Approach to the Paleo Diet, Part 1”
The Practical Paleo Approach: Modern-day Application of the So-Called “Caveman” Diet
In January we sent out a newsletter about the Paleo dietary basics. However, there is a lot of confusion about what is and what is not a part of the Paleo diet. Many supporters of the Paleo diet believe that we have to eat like cavemen and cavewomen to be healthy today. Unfortunately, these kinds of attitudes can lead to restrictive nutritional guidelines that are impossible to follow in our everyday lives. We need solutions that are practical and tailored to our specific needs. We need solutions for working Moms, athletes, and growing kids. We need solutions that are adaptable yet rooted in the same scientifically-backed fundamentals. We need a Practical Paleo Approach.
What are “Old” foods?
In many Paleo diets we hear people classifying foods into “Paleo” or “Non-Paleo.” Again, this kind of thinking can be very limiting. We suggest thinking about food in terms of “old” or “not processed” and “new” or “processed.” The more processed a food is, the more unhealthy it is. If you try to eat “old” foods instead of “new” ones, you are already on the right path to a successful Paleo diet.
3 Examples of “old” and “new” versions of the same food:
“New” Yogurt: Sweetened, non-fat Dannon.
“Old” Yogurt: Full-fat, greek yogurt with live, active cultures.
“New” Rice: Bleached white rice.
“Old” rice: Brown rice.
“New” Milk: Pasteurized, homogenized, antibiotic-and-hormone-laced milk.
“Old” Milk: Fresh, raw milk.
Why say “Old” instead of “Paleo”?
By old food we mean a food that existed in in its given form for a long time. However, a lot of foods that seem “old” at first glance are in fact very processed. Here are a couple of examples:
Roasted mixed nuts versus organic brown rice
Paleo diets often advocate a diet which includes nuts but completely avoids all grains. However, nuts roasted in a refined oil that is corn or soy based is much worse for us than a small helping of unprocessed, organic brown rice. The brown rice in this example is “old” because its given form is almost exactly the same as it has been for thousands of years. Those roasted nuts, however, are considered “new” because they were doused in unhealthy refined oils which have existed for only a decade or so.
Conventional tomatoes versus fresh, raw milk
Paleo enthusiasts urge people to stay away from dairy since it is one of the newer food groups introduced to the human diet. However, the fresh milk in this example, which is rich in probiotics, would be a much better choice than conventional tomatoes, which are often genetically modified and saturated in pesticides.
What Kind's of “new” foods are OK to eat and why?
As we mentioned last month, foods from early agriculture are fine to add, if well-tolerated, natural and unprocessed. Those foods are:
- raw dairy
- organic brown rice
- fresh ground organic coffee
The Practical Approach: the Paleo Diet with a Weston A. Price Twist
In the early 1900's, a dentist named Weston A. Price noticed his urban patients had worse dental hygiene than his rural ones. Intrigued, Price set off to travel the world and uncover the secret to not only dental hygiene, but true and long-lasting health. He ate dinner with the Swiss and Pigmies alike, and discovered that the none of the healthiest populations ate the same diet. In fact, the healthiest people were not determined by what they ate, but instead what they didn't - processed foods. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we advocate for a Practical Paleo approach because it is rooted in nutritional wisdom, backed by modern-day scientific research, and adaptable to our individual needs.
Digestive Health Ann Arbor: Find the Paleo Diet that's Right for You
The appropriate Paleo diet should be determined by your life circumstances and the foods locally available to you. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we help guide you through a simple three-step nutritional process to Refresh, Restart and Recalibrate your diet. People are different, so each person's diet should be, too. Digestive Health Ann Arbor can help to build a Practical Paleo Approach tailor-made for you.
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 features some excerpts from Adam Farrah, “A Practical Approach to the Paleo Diet, Part 2”