It’s Saturday afternoon, and you’ve just enjoyed a wonderful lunch with a friend. You decide to take a stroll through a bookstore to look for books pertaining to diet now that you're pregnant. You find yourself in the Nutrition and Diet section facing a stupefying number of books on every topic imaginable relating to nutrition – and every single one of them claims to have the answer to what we should be eating.
The only problem is, they are ALL insisting on a different diet!
You are immediately seized with the overwhelming urge to turn and run as fast as you can out of that store. How on earth are you supposed to figure out what is right for you?
If this sounds familiar you are not alone. There are a dizzying number of diet and nutrition books flooding the stores these days, all claiming to have found the ‘holy grail’ of weight loss, hormone balancing, mood elevating, blood sugar stabilizing, and anti-aging (to name a few).
If this predicament scares you, hold on to your tea cup because what I am about to share with you may be terrifyingly unnerving.
Most of them are right.
How can that possibly be? The answer is simple. There are seven billion people on this planet. No two people are the same. Despite what a lot of people would like you to believe, there is no such thing as a cookie-cutter diet. There is no “one diet fits all.” We are all unique and need to find out what works for us individually.
While this may seem like a daunting task, it is not as challenging as it sounds.
Hopefully as a registered holistic nutritionist, I can shed some light on one of the most popular and rapidly proliferating diet trends being talked about today. The Paleo diet.
Image: sbshine via Flickr
What is the Paleo Diet?
Essentially, the Paleo diet isn’t a ‘diet’ in the modern sense of the word. It is simply reverting back to the way we as humans ate for 99% of our existence and evolution on Earth. In reality, it is the only true non-‘diet’.
There is a lot of misconstrued conception about what the Paleo diet actually is. A lot of people are under the impression that it involves eating an unhealthy amount of meat. This is simply not true. While it does include meat and animal products, it is not a high-protein diet.
This is what the Paleo diet IS:
- It is a way of eating (ie: diet) that involves REAL food
- It is based on the most natural forms of food in their least-processed state
- It includes vegetables, meat, offal, seafood, eggs, and traditional fats such as coconut oil, lard, butter and tallow
- It is low in sugar
This is what the Paleo diet does NOT include:
- Industrial seed and vegetable oils
- Grains (a post-industrial-revolution food)
- Processed food, energy bars, meal replacements, trans fats, man-made and engineered food
- Dairy (especially pasteurized dairy)
Before the era of food processing and the industrialization of food, humans experienced very few illnesses related to diet (unlike nowadays where heart disease, diabetes and obesity rates are skyrocketing). It seems very unlikely to me that all of a sudden, after 200,000 years of eating what is now known as the "Paleo diet," we all of a sudden would be better off eating a diet low in fat and nutrient-dense foods, and high in modern grains and processed food.
The Paleo diet could also be called the Real Food diet, because, well, that’s what it is. I generally follow a Paleo-type diet because it is what makes me feel the best. And it is what makes the most sense to me.
Remember, one diet does not fit all.
I make some modifications here and there, such as with raw and fermented dairy. I drink raw milk when I can find it, and consume dairy kefir frequently as well as raw cheese. I believe these foods are healthy when tolerated, and since I am preparing for pregnancy, they are especially good for me right now.
However, there are a lot of people who don’t tolerate dairy in any form very well. In this case, dairy is not a healthy food.What About Paleo During Pregnancy?
There is no reason that eating real food during pregnancy isn’t good for you. In fact, because of increased nutrient requirements at this time, a Paleo-style diet is particularly healthy as it includes very nutrient-dense foods and healthy fats, without any empty ‘filler’ foods such as processed carbohydrates.
Pound for pound, Paleo-friendly foods such as meat, fats and vegetables have exponentially more vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients than processed carbs and sugar.
When we fill up on foods such as pasta, rice, bread, crackers, fruit, and desserts, we leave little room in our diet for the really important nutrient-dense foods.
Aside from nutrient density, a Paleo diet emphasizes foods that decrease inflammation, boost immune function, improve energy levels and help maintain a healthy weight – all undeniably important during pregnancy.
And of course, the point is not to keep a rigid diet. I always encourage people to experiment with their food. Keep a food journal and try different ratios of meat to vegetables to fat and figure out what makes YOU feel the best – because it will not be the same as anyone else.
One thing you may find when you are pregnant, is that if you are used to running on glucose for energy (most of us are unless we have been eating high fat and are in a state of ketosis, or close to it), is that you may need to increase the proportion of carbohydrates you eat. This means perhaps adding a sweet potato or yam to your diet every day. Play around with it and see what makes you feel the best. Try to stay away from regular potatoes if you can though, as they tend to raise blood sugar too quickly, and can contribute to inflammation.
At the end of the day, do what feels right to you, experiment with your diet and listen to your body. (Unless of course your body is telling you to eat candy bars and potato chips.)
Bites of Health works as a registered holistic nutritionist and does consultations on nutrition.
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