I am a nutritionist and not a “faddist” – I dislike short term, extreme approaches with regard to the foundation of our wellbeing; food! So when people ask me if I support the Paleo Way, my general response is “I support many of the fundamental principles of the Paleo Way of Eating.” Before I even discovered Paleo or The Weston A. Price Foundation, I was facilitating my cleanse retreats (note Cleanses , not Detoxes) with Paleo principles long before we had the Paleo label. Why was I using these healthy nutritional principles without knowing they were Paleo 101? Because the reality is that they generate long term, sustainable, optimal health and well being in most individuals.
What is this Paleo Movement?
It is often referred to as the “cave man diet” because it is about eating the way our ancestors ate back in prehistoric days. Before the agricultural revolution our diet was dominated by meat, saturated and unsaturated fats (from animals, olives, avocados, seeds, nuts, etc.), seasonal vegetables, eggs and a small amount of seasonal fruit. I like to think of it not as the ‘cave man diet’ but the way your grandmother would have eaten as a child: whole foods which are seasonal, local, organic ( there were not a lot of pesticides being sprayed on local farms when your granny was five years old).
When farming, processing, and manufacturing began ‘produce’ turned to ‘product’ with the likes of high fructose corn syrup, processed cereals, vegetable oil, and the human body began to develop health challenges. There is an epidemic of insulin resistance, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer, and increased cellar ageing. You only have to talk to your circle of friends or colleagues to know how quickly these illnesses are advancing in our society. We have evidence based research that clearly links the modern day diet of high sugar, excessively processed proteins and food, and poor quality fats to some of today’s most debilitating illnesses.
When I heard Jamie Oliver speak to the world’s great thinkers at a recent TED conference about the effect of hidden sugars it crystallized a fire within me and confirmed many of my Paleo health philosophies. Jamie states, with authority, that it is our children, yes, your children’s generation that are headed in a direction of “dying ten years before us due to dietary related diseases.” How can this be? How can we allow our children be victims of an early death due to what they are putting in their mouth or what we are putting on their plates?
Why does this Paleo approach work?
When we consume less sugar and starch, along with more quality protein and fats, our bodies function and metabolise our food and nutrients the way nature intended us to. Please note I didn’t say high volumes of protein and fat, I wrote “quality protein and fats”, as too much protein and fat are unhealthy for us too. Processed, sugary foods require different metabolic process than what are bodies were designed for at inception, 10,000 years ago. Our genes are the same, but our food is vastly different. Our body’s biochemistry is the same, but our waistlines are vastly different.
Most of us reading this blog, are not high performance athletes and do not require the amount of carbohydrates that the average Australia is consuming every day. Paleo is not for the super athlete, pregnant woman or children, it is for the everyday person who exercises a few times a week, works, and is interested in wellness prevention.
I encourage you to think of a Paleo lifestyle with adding so much good into your diet that you forget or you are not hungry for the bad. Eating quality proteins like grass fed beef, pork, lamb, chicken, wild caught fish, eggs, nuts, seed and healthy fats like coconut oil, ghee, organic butter, olive oils and nut oils, olives into your diet that provide you with a satiating feeling. When you eat like this you do not have room for sugar and starches like processed cereals, packaged breads, pastas, lollies, ‘healthy muesli bars’, sugary yogurts, ‘energy health drinks”. Think about this concept…You can easily become addicted to the morphine like substances that are in sugary foods and eat 10 Tim Tams, but you very rarely hear of someone eating 10 pieces of beef fillet in one sitting. I can bet that you have not heard of anyone eating a bowl full of green vegetables that have been lightly sautéed in macadamia nut oil getting “wired up” on a sugar like high then crashing into a sugar ‘low’ .
Paleo eating is essentially cutting out all processed foods and if you follow that approach you cannot help but begin eating vital, nutrient dense, clean foods, not to mention the ethical and environmental impact on our food supply. As the wonderful Costa Georgiadis so rightly states, “If it comes out of a plastic wrapper and a box, it cannot be food full of life and vitality. Live stuff doesn’t come out of plastic- dead stuff does. And what if you eat it? You become deader!”
How to personalize Paleo?
The Paleo way of eating can come in many forms, so I suggest personalising this to make it your own.
The Paleo journey usually incorporates the following guidelines; however I suggest trusting your nutritional ‘intuition’:
- Your meals should be high in quality fat, moderate in animal protein and low in sugar and starches. No calorie counting and just a mild sense of portion control. It is hard to eat five steaks, but not hard to eat five Tim Tams, yet the negative effect on your insulin would be at least five times greater from the biscuits.
- Consume some saturated fats like coconut oil and butter or clarified butter. Olive, avocado and macadamia oil are also excellent fats for salads and are wonderful drizzle over food but not for cooking as they become oxidized. Oxidation causes free radicals in the body and we are looking to avoid those unkind ageing processes. Beef and duck fat are ok in moderation if they come from organic sources. Cut out all vegetable, hydrogenated oils including margarines, soybean oil, corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.
- Eat quality animal proteins like red meat, poultry, pork, eggs, organs (liver, kidney, heart), and wild caught fish and shellfish. Paleos like cooking with bones to make nutrient dense stocks and broths.
- Eat unlimited amounts of non starch vegetables either raw or cooked. (green vegetables, lettuces, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, capsicum, etc) Eat a moderate amount of sweet potatoes and yams too as they are a great source of fiber and slow releasing carbohydrate.
- Enjoy low to moderate amounts of fruit and nuts. Berries, apples and pears will be low sugar fruits compared to mango and tropical fruits. Berries are antioxidant rich and nuts are essentially fatty acid rich. Macadamia nuts are low in omega-6, yet high in omega-3 and are quite filling.
- Choose pasture- raised, grass-fed meat coming from a local, environmentally aware farm. The omega profile coming from this type of red meat may be greater than the omega profile that is coming from farmed fish. This is something the media has not caught onto yet however it is important to note that essential fatty acids are critical for our cognitive function as well as many other healthy processes in the body. As the population of wild caught fish is decreased, look to the grass fed meat for your essential fatty acids. Expensive you say? Buy better quality food and you naturally consume less, naturally see the doctor less and will not need supplements. Yes, you will actually save dollars!
- Cut out all cereal grains and legumes from your diet. This includes wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, brown rice, soy, peanuts, kidney beans, pinto beans, and black eyed peas. Again use your nutritional intuition- if this feels too restrictive then take a moderate approach… you cannot fail at attempting to become a Paleo. If you do add some grains or legumes, I suggest soaking or sprouting them to break down the enzymes to ensure your digestive tract is happy with them.Try not to worry too much about ‘the caveman ate this way 10,000 years ago’ scenario, trust what your digestion and metabolism can handle.
- Eliminate sugar, soft drinks, and packaged products and fruit juices. If it comes out of a bag or a box, think about if it is food with energy and nutrient dense or if it is ‘dead food.’ Shop the peripheral of the supermarket- like the meat and fish and fresh food section. Be aware that the supermarkets are good at SUPER marketing.
- Explore using butter and heavy cream as your dairy sources. If you are going to have dairy consider raw, full fat and /or fermented dairy. Personally, I love a good cheese. I choose the harder cheeses and the cultured cheeses as they have less lactose.
- Be conscious not to over exercise, over work, over stress, or over anything. All of these speed up the ageing process of our internal cells, and eventually we see the external ageing process in the mirror.