The Paleo diet. Part 1: Introduction and health benefits

The Paleo diet, is more a way of eating rather than a restrictive diet, and is an excellent way to eat for health and weight loss.

Background

Humans have been evolving for the last 2.3 million years, however our diets (and lifestyles) have significantly changed in the last 10,000 years with the advent of the agricultural revolution. However as a species we have failed to keep pace with these changes and as a result modern society suffers many ills from this change in diets.

Evolution

We are evolved to be hunter-gatherers, living off a diet of meat, fish, eggs, fruit, nuts and greens that we would have hunted and foraged in the wild, moving with the seasons and food availability. However today, most western nations populations live off cheap calories in the form of carbohydrates from grains, sugar and diary.  Driven by the marketing machine of the food industry. None of which we would have had access to before the agricultural revolution.

By eating more like we have evolved to, scientists have shown significant reductions in incidence of many modern diseases and conditions. We also tend to lose weight (fat) as we shift to a more protein-based diet that results in feeling fuller for longer and an increased metabolism.

Despite many people’s preconceptions, hunter-gatherers lived long healthy lives (though their average life expectancy was lower as a result of a high infant mortality) and by following a Paleo diet,

when not fasting is an excellent way to solidify and increase weight loss, longevity and also improve health at the same time.

Foods to eat (ideally organic and wild/free range)

  • Lean MeatsPaleo diet
  • Fish and Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Greens
  • Oils (Olive, flaxseed)

Foods to avoid (especially farmed)

  • Any processed food and meat
  • Bread
  • Starchy carbohydrates (pasta, rice, potatoes)
  • Alcohol
  • Cereals
  • Dairy (Milk, cheese, cream etc.)
  • Sugar
  • Added Salt

The Paleo diet differs from diets such as Atkins, as it does have carbs in it, but they are coming from healthy non-starchy fruit, greens and vegetables.

A typical split of macronutrients

                                   Protein           Carbohydrates          Fat

Paleo diet                   19-35%          22-40%                      28-47%

US Diet                       15.5%             49%                            34%

Low carb diet             18-23%          4-26%                         51-78%

(E.g. Atkins)

By adding in high fiber fruit, greens and vegetables we are also providing our bodies with essential Vitamins, Minerals and Phytochemicals, which result in many health benefits.

This combined with the good fats: Monosaturated Fats (from Nuts, Olive Oil, avocados etc.) and Omega 3 (Fish) combine to provide many health benefits included:

Health Benefits of a Paleo diet

  • Reduced risk of Heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk of cancer
  • Lower Cholesterol
  • Weight loss, increased metabolism and lower appetite
  • Reduced system inflammation
  • Increased Insulin sensitivity
  • Less disease
  • Reeducation in Asthma
  • Less digestive complaints and disease e.g. constipation, indigestion, gall stones etc.
  • Less Arthritis
  • Reduced incidence of Psychological disorders.

To name just a few.

In Conclusion, eating as we have evolved to, following Paleo guidelines is an excellent way to improve overall health and lose weight.