One of the greatest and most beneficial lessons we can learn from our early ancestors is how to make prudent food choices. Today, we grapple with numerous illnesses, majority of which stem from what and how we eat. The Paleo diet is an attempt to replicate the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. There are numerous benefits to be gained from this approach to nutrition.
Some Reflections On Our Past Are Crucial At This Point
As man evolved, he devised various strategies for survival. Food, as a basic necessity, was at the center of man’s development throughout the years. Originally, human beings were hunters and gatherers. Their diet consisted of what they could find easily in nature.
If you were to subsist on a caveman diet today, what would you eat? To begin with, fruits and nuts were easily available from trees even before man knew how to light a fire. Plants provided the food needs of the cavemen. If this diet was harmful, our ancestors would not have survived. I would not be writing this article today and you would be nowhere to read it.
With the discovery of fire, the Paleolithic man began to cook food, especially meat from animals. Now he could eat fowl, mammals and fish. It is important to remember that these animals were found abundantly in the wild. They fed on natural vegetation and grass. This augmented the plant diet and kept our early ancestors in perfect health.
They Lived Longer Than Us
By now you know that we cannot even come close to the number of years these people lived. Many of them clocked centuries, except for instances when plagues and other diseases decimated populations. I want to believe that obesity was not in the parlance of the day because these were active people who ate lean meat and plant materials.
Enter Manufacturing And Food Processing
However, the scenario was to change when human beings began to domesticate animals and to practice agriculture. Gradually, eating habits changed. Food began to be cooked more than being eaten raw. Modern technology led to the processing and storage of food. Needless to say, the nutritional value of cooked and processed food is lower than that of raw food.
Today, as a consequence of gradual diet changes, we are experiencing many life-threatening and violent diseases. Experts opine that we need to change our diets to the original caveman food if we are to survive the onslaught of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes and other illnesses.
What The Paleo Diet Entails
Paleo means going back to the basics in terms of diet. It entails eating what the cavemen feasted on. The word ‘diet’ should not be misconstrued to mean a temporary measure for purposes of losing weight. Paleo is a lifestyle choice which entails eating particular foods and avoiding others.
When you adopt a Paleo diet, you eat as much as possible as our early ancestors. This means eating fruits, vegetables, seafood, nuts, lean meats and wild meats as opposed to starches, milk products, legumes, grains and processed foods. If you are keen enough you will realize that caveman ate the former and not the latter.
Customized The Paleo Diet
It is important, though, to understand that there is no standard Paleo diet. While it is important to stick as much as possible to caveman delicacies, one must be realistic about the type of food available in their vicinity. Moreover, this diet cannot be adopted and accepted by the body immediately. It takes time to get used to it.
Moreover, you need to be patient when you are adopting this diet because it is not easy to stop eating food that you were used to. Take the example of legumes and potatoes, foods that are common in any household. How about dairy products and peanut butter? It will take time before you get used to the idea that these foods are not part of a Paleo diet and should be discarded.
In actual sense, there are categories of Paleo dieters depending on the extent to which one adopts this lifestyle. There are absolute Paleo dieters, those who cannot contemplate taking anything that our cavemen ancestors could not eat. Considering the reality of modern life vis-à-vis Paleolithic times, it is quite difficult to replicate the past.
The more realistic and common approach is to try as much as possible to eat a Paleo diet, while still consuming little amounts of some of the foods that do not meet the threshold. For example, most Paleo dieters still find time to take some milk, eat peanut butter and consume legumes and grains. However, it would be foolhardy to take alcohol if you are on a Paleo diet.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Paleo Diet?
- It promotes metabolism since the body only eats a ‘primitive’ diet; that which it can absorb and assimilate easily.
- It helps in weight loss because efficient metabolism helps to unclog the digestive system thus promoting the burning of excess fat.
- It helps to stabilize blood sugar thus contributing significantly to efforts to prevent or limit the effects of type 2 diabetes.
- It reverses autoimmunity, a situation in which body tissues ‘eat’ into each other, especially when a new organ is transplanted into the body.
- A Paleo diet is effective is preventing the onset of heart diseases and controlling exiting cases. Hunters and gatherers were never known to have cardiovascular complications.
- People who subscribe to a Paleo diet have virtually no allergies.
- Paleo diets help the body to have optimal levels of energy the entire day as opposed to conventional diets which cause energy fluctuations in the body.
- It boosts skin health and also results in stronger teeth.
- Improved sleep patterns have also been reported among people on this type of diet.
- For those who want to lose weight healthfully, this is one of the most effective approaches.
List Of All Paleo Foods
The following is a comprehensive list of Paleo foods:
Fruits: Avocado, papaya, peaches, mango, blackberries, grapes, plums, lemons, lychees, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon and bananas. Despite this, fruits contain high amounts of fructose and eating a lot of them may be counterproductive to the Paleo diet and efforts to lose weight.
Vegetables: Avocado, Carrots, celery, cabbage, spinach, asparagus, broccoli, artichoke hearts, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, parsley, green onions, peppers, eggplant and cauliflower. However, it is important to avoid vegetables that have high amounts of starch, like butternut squash.
Nuts: Cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pine, pecans, sunflower and macadamia seeds. It is important, though, that you watch out not to eat a lot of nuts especially if you want to lose weight.
Fats and oils: olive, macadamia, avocado, coconut and grass-fed butter. In Paleo diets, fats and oils form are a major source of energy for the body.
Meat: Poultry, quail, pheasant, pork, veal, grass-fed beef, bacon, lamb, goat, buffalo and venison, kangaroo, ostrich and turtle. All these meats should be prepared as naturally as possible. Remember you will only say you have eaten a Paleo diet when the animal in question has been eating the natural way, not through modern methods of rearing animals.
Fish: Sardines, Salmon, Mackerel, Bass, Tuna, Halibut, Walleye, Sunfish, Red snapper, Swordfish, Tilapia, Shark and Trout. It is important to understand that wild fish is the best for Paleo purposes. Our lakes and rivers are full of these creatures, which contain omega-3 fats that are important for the wellbeing of the heart and mental health too.
Seafood: Crab, shrimp, clams, oysters, crayfish, lobster, crawfish and oysters.
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