The What and Why of
The Paleo Diet
You may have heard of the newest diet rage, the Paleo diet. We have,
here at Page River Bottom Farm. Many of our customers have let us know they follow this diet, and are happy to find a good source for their meats through us.
So, what is the Paleolithic diet, also known as the Caveman diet or Hunter-Gatherer Diet?
What Is It?
In reality, the Paleo diet is more than a diet, it's a lifestyle. If you research it, you'll find many variations on the theme, some more exclusive than others, and no two exactly alike. Different sources say different things about the foods you should eat, the foods your shouldn't eat, and why you should do what they recommend.
Basically, it promotes the types of foods our Paleolithic ancestors are believed to have eaten, prior to the agricultural revolution. It consists mainly of lean meats, seafoods, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables. Depending on the "authority" you read, it can also include nuts and seeds.
On the other hand, the Paleo diet excludes all grains, often excludes tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams) and usually excludes dairy and legumes as well. Obviously, it does not include any refined and processed foods. Sorry, no donuts.
Again, dependent on your "source", you may or may not be allowed to have alcoholic drinks at all. Although, when you think about it, fruits that have over-ripened have that same fermentation process happening and can offer similar effects, and were likely eaten by our ancestors who were far less likely to waste any available food.
Protein recommendations range from 35% to 65% depending on the source you read. Fats may make up to 40% of the Paleo diet, and carbohydrates from 25% to 35%. This is a large discrepancy with the current FDA Food Pyramid, yet if our ancestors thrived on it, perhaps we should consider it.
Clearly, none of this is absolute. No clinical trials have been done, no "scientific" studies on the Paleo lifestyle. Even if we do research, the numbers may vary. Why? Because everyone's body reacts differently. Your best bet is probably listening to your body. It will tell you what is most comfortable for your optimal health.
And lest you think this is completely new, the idea of a Paleo diet was originally published in Walter Voegtlin's book, The Stone Age Diet, in the mid-1970s. While similar to the Atkins diet, it tries to be "purer". Some sources say nothing about where to get your meats, fruits and vegetables, but those who are really paying attention to health concerns will insist you eat only organic produce and wild or organic-pasture-raised meats, seafood and eggs. With all the possible issues large production farms may introduce into your foods, such as pesticides, growth hormones and who-knows-what-all in the feed, you are far better off sticking to organic and pasture-raised. Don't forget local, either, as much as you can manage it. Here, you can read more about
becoming a locavore.
Why Do It?
So, with such a huge swing in attitude about how we eat, and so many faster, easier choices on all the shelves at the local grocer's, why should we try to follow a Paleo diet? While it may be our newest "fad", it has a lot of good going for it. And it can easily improve your health and life, if you're already having health issues.
Despite having eaten grains for approximately the last 10,000 years, some studies show our bodies have not evolved to utilize these food sources optimally. Too much of these foods, especially the highly refined forms found everywhere today, can make you ill with a huge list of diseases. Most often, you get an overzealous immune response (an allergy, if you will). The problem with that is a constant barrage attacking your immune system eventually wears it out, leading to cancer, arthritis, allergies by the score, heart disease, high blood pressure... the list is huge.
Not only are the "forbidden" foods troublesome, even when cooked, but other recent additions like sugar, preservatives and artificial sweeteners
can be as harmful or worse. Nearly every chronic, serious and terminal illness can be traced to food sensitivities and modern day stress. Both of these cause a similar problem: inflammation. Nearly every disease we
know includes or is begun by inflammation. Most of the "forbidden" foods
on the Paleo diets include the most inflammatory foods: sugar, grains, artificial anything.
Depending on the source of your information, you may want to try the Paleo diet, even if you adjust it with the modern-day equivalents and allow a few of the "forbidden" foods. Probably the best thing you can do for yourself, no matter what, is to cut out all intake of sugar and refined foods, and replace those with whole, fresh, organic foods.
Find local farms who raise their meats on pasture - all of their meats on pasture. It is the healthiest, most balanced way to raise any food animal. Make sure they don't use any pesticides or other chemicals, as these will be absorbed into the meat you will later eat.
See if they also raise organic produce. Organic fruits and vegetables have two things going for them: first, they aren't full of pesticides. Second, because they've had to fight off insects without those chemicals, they are full of more nutrients, which build up when they resist pests.
Using thoughtfully raised foods like this for your Paleo diet will definitely improve your health and well-being. Don't feel you need to jump in the deep end immediately, either. Make the change to your new eating plan slowly, by changing just a few things at a time. Soon, you'll be eating only the healthiest of foods without having to think about it.
If you need a little guidance, here is a list, compiled by Creighton University Medical Center, of
foods to eat and foods to avoid
before you start your new lifestyle.
You can also read more about several people's beliefs about the Paleo diet at these links:
Dr. Loren Cordain's Paleo Lifestyle Website
Paleo Diet 101
from someone who had many health issues and found his own way to good health with this lifestyle.
Creighton University Medical School's Paleo Lifestyle Page
And here are three articles by Dr. Mercola on the Paleo lifestyle and how carbohydrates can harm us.
Dr. Mercola on the Paleolithic Diet 1
Dr. Mercola on the Paleolithic Diet 2
Dr. Mercola on the Health Issues with Carbohydrates
Update, January 2012
We like to stay on top of the latest research on healthy eating habits, both for ourselves and to pass that information along to our customers. Dr. Mercola has recently interviewed Dr. Paul Jaminet, who has been researching the Paleo Diet for several years now. Here's a distillation of the interview, which you can hear or read in its entirety by going to
Refining the Paleo Approach to Eating.
Research seems to be pointing to a need for some carbs in your diet, to provide the glucose needed for optimal body function. Too little glucose (hypoglycemia) can mean disruptions in various body systems, impacting the immune system in the end and leading to health problems.
How much is enough? Usually just 20-30% of your calorie intake needs to be carbs. However, these need to be "safe" carbs: white rice and white potatoes, not processed foods. Fruits and vegetables, while they are "carbs", do not break down into usable glucose the same way potatoes and rice do, so apparently rice and potatoes are necessary as well.
Because this is a low carb diet, you need to be sure you're eating enough fats. But also enough of the healthy fats, and not too many of the less healthy varieties. Healthy fats include olive oil and coconut oil, palm oil and unheated organic nut oils, butter made from raw, grass-fed organic milk, raw nuts (remember peanuts are legumes, not nuts), organic, pastured egg yolks, avocados, and fats from pastured animals (grass-fed beef, pastured chickens, etc.). Avoid using much vegetable oil, which has more omega-6 fats. Those need to be limited in your low carb diet.
Gut bacteria are also very important. Probiotics and fermented foods promote healthy gut bacteria. High fiber consumption (eating lots of fresh vegetables) is actually going to cause issues if your digestive system is not in good condition. It can worsen your health, despite how healthy we've always been told fresh vegetables are.
That's it. If you want all the details, be sure to click the link to the full interview and article just above.
Good luck with your Paleo diet! And feel free to
to arrange for your pasture-raised meats and eggs portion of your diet. You can check our
for what's available at what pricing. Thanks, as always, for supporting our sustainable farm!
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