So the Paleo diet, huh? It sounds pretty easy, but there’s a lot of grey area that leaves room for error. The thought behind the Paleo diet is that you go back to the way of eating found in our ancestors from somewhere around the paleolithic era. What research has found is that people from way back then didn’t consume grains or dairy, at least not the way that we do. The biggest reason for this is probably a) because agriculture wasn’t utilized by nomadic people, and b) because animal husbandry was also not utilized, wherein it would have been extremely difficult for people to collect milk from wild animals. That’s where we see this hunter/gather sort of diet emerge. Lots of meat and fruits and vegetables, avoiding grains and dairy almost all together.
Why would you want to do this? It seems like a good question to me too. I have some friends who eat Paleo, and I have dabbled with it myself. I know that some of my friends have had great success with it, but personally, I found it too restrictive. I’m a huge legume person (read: will sell my soul for peanut butter on a spoon) and so having that restricted was really unsustainable for me. The biggest part of Paleo that is preached by its diehard fans is that Paleo eating gets people in a Dunkin Donuts world back to real food, and that’s the part of Paleo that I love. I’m a huge real food believer, but for me, real food means something a little bit different than not eating grains or dairy, to me real food means eating grains from a sustainable source that look as much like they did when they were harvested. I think for some people who don’t do well with grey area, it’s easier to follow the Paleo diet because it has a pretty great way of laying everything out that’s really user friendly. The thought behind the Paleo diet is that we weren’t made to digest grains and dairy since eating them is a newer concept, sometimes the Paleo diet can be a great way to diagnose or to rule out lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivities since you’re removing those things and can gauge what happens to your health overall, it’s a great way to tweak your body and see how it best operates.
The Paleo diet doesn’t have room for sugar, which I really dig, considering that I’m pretty sure a bag of the white stuff is actually one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (but maybe I’m mixing my mythologies), but I think that it’s overall a little bit too restrictive to be sustainable for a lot of people, and I have seen people take it the complete opposite direction, “so what, I eat 12 strips of bacon at a time… I’m Paleo!” Moderation is key with any type of eating plan, and with Paleo being a relatively new construct, there is a huge space for user-error, which is why I’d always suggest having a coach or Paleo guru before starting the lifestyle.
“Will I get enough carbs if I eat Paleo?” If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this question, I would have…. At least enough money to buy 20 of my closest friends a really nice meal out with 2 bottles of wine (which is not Paleo, I might add) a piece. And to all the people who ask me about this, I say, “yes, absolutely, as long as you’re eating truly Paleo, this won’t be something that you have to worry about.” Paleo and something like Atkin’s or the Keto Diet are really different, yes, they focus on getting your energy from fats and protein, but what people forget is the critical difference between pasta carbs and sweet potato carbs, mostly in the amount of processing and the glycemic index differences of these types of foods. The Paleo diet doesn’t restrict carbs that come from vegetables and to some extent fruit, it just asks that you not have donut carbs or pasta carbs, so you have to be a little bit more mindful of what you’re eating, which is super important regardless of how you eat.
My bottom line:
Do I think that Paleo is the best option out there? For some people, I do, but I know that it’s not the best option for me, and probably not for a lot of other people.
Do I think that Paleo is harmful? Probably not, as long as you do it safely, and make sure that you eat enough nutrients, I think it’s way less harmful to your body than Mountain Dew is.
Do I think that Paleo is a fad diet? No more so than any other type of eating, I think that it depends on how you treat it. If you hate being Paleo, are only doing it to lose 20 pounds for your wedding and then never plan to even look at another sweet potato after the vows are exchanged, then yes I think it’s a fad diet, just like I think that being vegetarian or gluten free is a fad diet. Remember, any diet can be a fad diet depending on how you feel about it and how personally sustainable it is for you.
I’d suggest that anyone who’s curious to learn more about their body’s needs and desires try going Paleo for at least 3 months. It’s a great way to get to know yourself better and you might even find that you’re lactose intolerant or have a gluten sensitivity and didn’t even know it!
So what do you think, ever gone Paleo before?