Saturday, January 8, 2011

What is the Paleo Diet, and my thoughts on 'paleo' eating

The Paleo Diet is a nutrition plan based on evolutionary biology (ie: what caveman, hunter-gatherer ancestors ate).  The idea is that humans should consume foods that we were genetically designed to eat, and to avoid foods that wreak havoc on our biology.  In general, people who follow paleolithic nutriton eat a diet that consists mainly of meat, seafood, veggies, nuts, seeds, fruits, and quality fats.  They shun grains, beans and legumes, most dairy, sugar, and refined, processed foods in general.  The three big gun authors in the paleo community are Loren Cordain - The Paleo Diet, Robb Wolf - The Paleo Solution, and Mark Sisson - The Primal Blueprint.  My favorite author to follow, and the one whose approach I most agree with is Robb Wolf.

The paleo community is growing and becoming more mainstream (some would even say cultish), and there is some disagreement about which foods should be allowed and not allowed.  People who follow Mark Sisson's The Primal Blueprint may be more lax with foods like cream and butter, while more dogmatic paleo dieters will shun even green beans, which are technically a legume. 

Personally, I've grown a little weary of the dogma and, frankly, religious attitudes I've seen from a lot of paleo dieters, and have little interest in debating the pros and cons of the paleo diet so you won't see much of that here.  I'm also a little weary of hearing the term 'Paleo', but I use it here because it's an easy way to for people to identify the way I prefer to eat.  I look forward to the day when the paleo community drops the 'paleo' term altogether!

What you won't find here:
- I am not a scientist or an intellectual.  I don't have a college degree, or any credentials after my name.  You won't see much debate over the details of pubmed articles or long-winded breakdowns on the latest research.
- Apologies for how 'paleo' or 'non-paleo' my diet may be from day to day.
- Much reference to the theory of evolution, since I don't swing that way. 
- The term "Grok on!" or references to what cavemen did or did not do and eat.

You will find:
- Primarily non-scientific banter, and some references to research supporting my position.
- Geeky stats, training logs, recipes, photos of daily meals, and daily randomness.
- What worked for me and what didn't.
- Opinions on the latest happenings in the paleo community.

Why do I chose to eat paleo? 

A few years ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or pcos as it's more commonly referenced.  Pcos is a group of symptoms that's caused by metabolic dysfunction, and is associated with much higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, infertility, and obesity, among other nasties.  The paleo diet addresses and corrects the causes of metabolic dysfunction.

I also have auto-immune diseases in my family on my mom's side (rheumatoid arthritis and graves disease), and a history of diabetes, heart disease and stroke on my dad's side.

As if that wasn't enough reason to ditch damaging foods, avoiding dairy has all but eliminated my acne (acne is another symptom of pcos), avoiding sugar balances my mood (I spent many years battling depression), and avoiding grains and high-carb foods resets the outrageous, out of control hunger I feel when I eat the Standard American Diet. 

Do I believe that the paleo diet is right for everyone?

In short, yes.  I believe that paleo nutrition is superior to other nutritional plans and that it would be a benefit to all people when properly executed.  Tweaks (including varied macronutrient ratios and even high and low-to-no carb plans) may be necessary for different groups of people depending on climate, location, genetic makeup, disease states, athletic level, etc.  But I do think it's the healthiest way to eat.  In ten years I may be eating my own words, but I'll take that chance.

Are gluten containing foods really so bad?

Yes.  I believe that the wheat we eat today has been tampered with and hybridized into something entirely different than the ancient grain we used to consume, and that over time, overconsumption of the modified grain has damaged our ability to handle gluten, the primary protein in wheat.  For many of us, much more than are formally diagnosed, our bodies are damaged by the consumption of gluten which opens the door to developing disease states such as cancer, alzheimer's, heart disease, arthritis, thyroid disease, and even very common things like gall bladder disease.  Recent research shows connections between a large number of disease states and gluten.

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