Many diets have been promoted over the past decade, boasting the ability to help people achieve their weight loss goals and tone their bodies. The Paleo diet, introduced by Dr. Lane Sebring, is sensible, easy to follow, and has been proven to aid in weight loss, as well as improve overall health. This type of diet is based on the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Therefore, many of the foods recommended are similar to those our ancestors would have consumed regularly.
Dr. Sebring does not claim that the diet alone can achieve optimal health, without other lifestyle changes. But, the diet is the foundation to improved health. In other words, other interventions can help improve health, but without the dietary changes, people cannot possibly be in the best health possible.
The Paleo Diet Basics
The basis of the diet begins with the idea that adding grains into the diet has created many health problems and physical changes. Smaller brains, shorter height, frequent infections, inflammation and auto-immune disease, osteoporosis, and increased infant mortality. Farmers began growing grains around 10,000 years ago when it was discovered they were easier to grow than other foods.
Other foods that Dr. Sebring believes are problematic are legumes, such as beans, and potatoes. Legumes can be toxic and can have a direct negative effect on DNA. These food sources bind digestive enzymes and have a negative effect on the nutrients we may get from the healthier food. The recommended foods to consume for better health, include colorful nuts, seeds, berries, fruits, and vegetables. These foods are brightly colored, have pleasant scents, and are generally attractive because they are meant to be consumed.
Another concept of the Paleo diet is that people who live in certain areas should focus on eating locally, for the best nutritional benefits. While grains, nuts, and dairy should still be avoided, most regions are able to grow an adequate amount of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Organically grown meats are also available in most regions. One of the main reasons animal meats are beneficial is that they spend much of their time selecting the plant life that gives them the most nutrients to maintain health. Therefore, when we consume organic, grass-fed meats, we are benefiting from the selective grazing of the animals.
Paleo Food Groups
Those who want to benefit most from the paleo diet should start by understanding what Paleo food groups, grains, and starches are. Potatoes, wheat, barley, rice, legumes (beans, peas, and peanuts), sugars, salt, refined oils, dairy, and processed foods are all problematic. Therefore, to adhere strictly to the diet, these foods and groups of foods should be strictly avoided. Writing a list of foods to avoid and taking the list when shopping can be beneficial in avoiding the wrong foods and getting off to a bad start.
Some of the foods allowed on the Paleo diet include healthy oils, like walnut, flax seed, coconut, macadamia, olive, and avocado. Fresh fruits and vegetables of all types are allowed. However, it helps to mix different types, to get the most nutrient benefit. Eggs, fish, seafood, and grass-fed meat are all part of the diet. So, even though sugars and snacks are not allowed, there is plenty of variety to help in meal planning and shopping. Fruits and vegetables are the most nutritious when they are ripe. So, when choosing them in the store, it’s best to look for those that are ripe or nearly ripe.
Health Benefits of the Paleo Diet
There are many health benefits of eating a grain free, dairy free, legume free diet, consisting of plant-based foods, fish, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed meats. While grain fed meats are higher in certain fats, they are less healthy for other reasons. Grass contains natural omega 3s and antioxidants. Therefore, animals used for meat that are fed a grass diet, will produce leaner meat that is healthier for human consumption. There is no need to add grain substitutes to get the omega 3s our bodies need. In addition, the oils from fish allowed in the diet provide additional omega 3 fatty acids, for reduction of inflammation and improved brain function.
By eating a variety of grass-fed meats, vegetables, and fruits, we are more likely to get all the vitamins and minerals are bodies need than if we fill up with starchy grains and unhealthy snacks. The diet may take some getting used to initially. But, if a person is committed, he or she can begin to feel more energy and possibly lose the desired amount of weight. Of course, there is no substitute for regular exercise. But, with more energy, many people will have the motivation to get off the couch or away from the computer screen.
Paleo in the Workplace
Those who need to eat lunch away from home have plenty of options. Combining berries with nuts can provide an overall boost of energy that is sustained for several hours. While this combination will be a snack for some, it can be a lunch for others. Some other options include grilled salmon on a bed of fresh lettuce with tomatoes, topped with avocado dressing, or chopped mixed fruits, topped with seeds or crushed ginger. Boiled eggs can be chopped into salads for additional protein.