Thinking of Going Paleo? It Doesn’t Have To Be An All or Nothing Approach.

Even if you haven’t tried the Paleo diet you’re sure to have heard about it.  Many of the health and wellness web sites I frequently browse promote the ‘Paleo way’ as the best way and offer tips and Paleo-friendly recipes.  One blogger even posted a Paleo-friendly chocolate chip cookie recipe that used almond meal in place of flour.

So what is this infatuation with the Paleolithic way of eating all about and should you be getting on board?

Paleo

The Paleo diet is rich in fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Flickr photo by justine.foong

Eating Like Our Ancestors (Kind of)

It’s no secret that our modern day way of eating has gotten us into a lot of trouble.  We eat too much sugar (from multiple sources), salt, refined grains and bad fats.  On top of that much of what we eat is so over-processed it no longer contains any real nutritional value.  Plus it’s loaded with preservatives and other substances to enhance color and increase shelf life that our systems simply cannot process.

All of these products that we take for granted because we see them in such abundance on the shelves of the supermarket have, in part,  fueled the obesity epidemic and are the culprit behind the increase in chronic diseases ranging from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The Paleo diet eliminates all of these ‘bad’ foods from our diet.  Paleo is based on foods that were hunted, fished, and gathered during the Paleolithic era including meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruits, and berries. What you won’t find on the diet are dairy products, grains, sugar, legumes, potatoes, and processed oils.  Advocates of the diet believe that if the caveman didn’t dine on it, you shouldn’t be either.

The premise of eating like a caveman is based on the concept that the human body isn’t built to digest and process all of the foods that are being manufactured  and are part of the modern day diet.

Pros and Cons

There are plenty of reasons to adopt the Paleo plan:

  • According to the author of “The Paleo Diet”, four studies have tested the diet and have found it to be superior to the typical Western diet (no big surprise there) and the Mediterranean diet with regards to weight loss, cardiovascular health and risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
  • Supporters say that this diet will cut the cases of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions plaguing our society.
  • The program is based on nutritious whole-foods and promotes ‘clean’ eating thereby eliminating all of the troublesome preservatives, and additives many people consume in volume.
  • Because of the high fiber content followers experience reduced incidence of gas and bloating.
  • The high fiber content will also help you feel full.
  • Helps eliminate mood swings caused by drops in blood sugar that are usually followed by hunger, fatigue, and irritability.

Despite the obvious health benefits that can be gained by the Paleo diet, there are some drawbacks:

  • For many people the diet may be too hard to follow.  When you eliminate some of the basic food groups you have to make an effort to replace those foods with something else.
  • Not everyone has access to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Or, if they do, the cost may be prohibitive.
  • On the Paleo plan you probably won’t be able to get enough Vitamin D without supplementation unless you are able to spend enough time in the sun to make up for what is lacking in the diet.
  • Some nutritionists think that there’s no need to eliminate grains and legumes from the diet.  They provide nutrients that you can’t get from other foods.
  • The food restrictions make it a difficult plan to adhere to over time.  Like most diets, you’ll see results at first, but over time you’ll grow weary of not being able to enjoy a wider variety of foods.

All Or Nothing

If you’ve been thinking about the diet but are not sure that you’re ready to go full Paleo, there’s nothing wrong with focusing on some of the positive aspects of the plan.  Eating more fruits and vegetables, high fiber nuts, and lean proteins while limiting sugar, sodium and processed foods can have a positive impact on your health.

Rather than take an all or nothing approach to Paleo, you might find you are able to stick with the plan if you work out a combination such as four days on, three days off until you find out what will actually work for you. Over time you’ll adjust to this new clean eating approach, but like everything, it will take some time.

Have you tried the Paleo diet?  Please share your experience with it in the comment box below.

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