At the start of the year I got a few questions asking about the Paleo Diet, which is starting to build momentum to be "the next thing in weight loss". I thought I would dedicate today's post to looking into the diet a little further and answering some of the basic questions in following it. I'll start by saying that trends come and go when it comes to dieting, but nothing beats eating healthy and exercise. EAT LESS MOVE MORE. It really is that simple. The crazy detox diets, or the diets where you can eat a bacon cheeseburger so long as it doesn't come with a bun, don't do it for me. They might have quick results, but they will never last as you incorporate foods back into your eating plan. In my own experience I've found that food moderation and kicking my butt at the gym are always the most successful. I've chosen to highlight the Paleo Diet because, while a diet, it is really is a lifestyle choice in the way we think about food. Many of my food philosophies are based on the morals displayed in this diet, and I think it is a great long term eating solution as opposed to a quick-fix diet plan.
What is the Paleo Diet? The Paleo Diet was created by Dr. Loren Cordain, who created the diet to mimic the food intake of our paleolithic ancestors. He argues that eating in this manner, a high vegetable and high protein diet, will help you lose weight and optimize your health. By eliminating unnatural foods, or those with chemical additives and refined sugars, we will lose weight and decrease disease the diseases that are taking over our nation.
What can I eat on the Paleo Diet? The primary foods of the Paleo Diet are fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Dr. Cordain emphasizes that it should be organic, free-range, or grass-fed when applicable. I know this can mean a substantial increase in spending, so do the best you can when you can. This includes all basic fruits and almost any vegetable with the exception of potatoes. Protein includes beef, pork, chicken, fish and seafood. The diet also stresses the importance of healthy fats which include olive oil, nut oils, coconut oils, and avocado. Eggs are part of the Paleo Diet and an easy component to incorporate into any meal of the day. Herbal tea is also included on the list.
What can't I eat on the Paleo Diet? There are three main categories of foods to eliminate on the Paleo Diet. The first are your basic starches: grains, legumes, potatoes, and processed foods. This is probably the hardest part to abide by. Any sort of potato chips, bread products, cereals, oats, etc.. are in this category. If you buy it in the middle aisles at the grocery store, you shouldn't eat it on the Paleo Diet. The second category are dairy products of all kinds. This includes the obvious (milk, ice cream, yogurts, cheeses) and also includes any soy or alternative products as well. The final group isn't really a group, but includes salt, coffee, refined sugars, and refined oils. Most of the latter are found in prepackaged, processed foods.
The 85:15 Rule: Now that you are completely discouraged because all of your favorite foods are listed in the "foods I cannot eat list", there is some hope. The 85:15 rule means that you should follow the guidelines 85% of the time. Which means that 15% of the time, or three meals per week, you are allowed to stray away from the list. This doesn't mean that you should have a huge dinner comprised of pasta, creamy alfredo sauce, and a box of twinkies for dessert. It means that maybe once a week you have a glass of wine at dinner, another day a week you have pasta for lunch, and a third night you have dessert. Dieting is about changing your current habits. It should be expected that you have to sacrifice, or stray away from your current eating habits, to achieve results. I think the 85:15 rule is one of the best parts of the diet; everyone should feel the splurge of cheating a little, so long as it is in moderation. You can't be perfect all the time, can you?!
What are the health benefits of eating this way? According to Cordain there are endless health benefits to eating according to Paleo guidelines. The first is that eating according to the Paleo Diet reduces disease. His biggest argument is that the prevalent diseases of today (heart disease, diabetes, and obesity) are recently acquired in the span of human history. Cavemen did not need to take regular insulin shots; these diseases did not exist because their causes did not exist either. The most efficient way to eliminate the diseases is by eliminating unnatural sugar and carbohydrate sources in our diets. These foods cause blood sugar spikes, which eventually lead to diabetes in adults. The primary sources are from processed foods and wheat products.
And now, for the health benefit that most of us are looking for... weight loss! Eating the acceptable basic foods will lead to weight loss because your body and metabolism are functioning at their highest levels. Gain some love handles or muffin top over the holidays? A beer belly comes from more than just beer. Extra baggage around your waistline comes from a high intake of carbohydrates. Because the Paleo Diet only allows carbohydrates from vegetables, you'll see those bulging areas creep away. Vegetables also have a higher amount of fiber per calorie, and your body will quickly begin to clean its system out. All of this cleaning leads to higher energy and less of the crampy bloaty feelings we often feel after consuming refined or fake sugars. Eating Paleo also helps relieve your skin from acne, which is a bonus at any age.
Now that I've given you the basics... I encourage you to examine how Paleo-eating could fit into your lifestyle. There are many benefits, outside and inside, that make it worth considering. Maybe you try to eat Paleo one full day this week, just to give it a try. Maybe there's one item that you absolutely can't live without... coffee perhaps. Then try the Paleo diet and allow yourself to have coffee. The cavemen aren't going to come pound down your door for modifying the diet. It's all about experimenting and seeing how your body feels as a result. As for me, I am going to try and include some Paleo inspired recipes in the next few weeks, including a pizza made with cauliflower crust!
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