Paleo is dietary template that our family has adopted over the past six months due to health reasons. It balances blood sugar and is shown to reduce symptoms associated with autoimmune disease.
This is relevant to you for two reasons.
First, blood sugar imbalances are at the root of almost ALL of my client's complaints (and probably yours also): weight gain, bad skin, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, poor sleep habits, fatty liver, stomach fat, PMS, menopause, bad breath, gas and bloating ... I can go on and on an on.
Second, autoimmune conditions are alarmingly on the rise. We live in a constant state of inflammation in our modern world. Why put yourself at risk?
But the popularity of paleo extends beyond blood sugar and autoimmune. It was the world's most popular diet in 2013 and hundreds of books have been written on the subject because it is shown to help with weigh loss and so many other conditions. Heard of the Whole 30? Jillian Michaels? Beach Body?
But what is it? Is it a fad? And is it right for you?
If you like fish, eggs or meats, read on.
If you have belly fat, fatty liver, stubborn weight loss, a slow thyroid, hormonal imbalances, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gas/bloating, inflammation, an autoimmune disease, skin conditions … read on.
This approach is worth considering.
What you can (and can’t) eat on the paleo diet
The name “paleo” is from the “paleolithic” time when earlier humans (thousands of years ago) were hunters and gatherers. It is thought to represent the era of nutrition before agriculture. For this reason, there are very few processed foods in “pure” paleo.
The paleo diet was created to increase the amount of whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense food, while reducing the number of gut-disrupting, hormone-disrupting, and inflammatory foods.
Paleo friendly foods include:
Fresh or frozen whole fruit
Fresh or frozen vegetables (including root vegetables like sweet potato, turnip, squash)
Eggs (free range or organic)
Nuts and seeds
Meat (grass-fed beef, organic meats, including organ meats)
Healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.)
Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, olives)
Herbs and spices
Food to avoid while following paleo:
Refined foods (e.g. sugar, vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, etc.)
Grains (e.g. wheat, oats, rice, etc.)
Most beans, peas and legumes (e.g. beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, cashews etc.)
In the cases of autoimmune, nightshades can also be problematic (tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, etc.)
The paleo diet can be thought of as more of a "template," rather than a strict set of rules. You can modify above to suit your food sensitivities, health condition or a night out with friends.
In our case, we used food sensitivity tests to identify triggers to help reduce inflammation. We used the paleo diet to hit reset on health - get rid of a lot of inflammation quickly. When we had the results of our food sensitivity tests back, we were able to customize. My daughter now does well following a strict gluten, dairy and pea/legume free diet, whereas I need to avoid everything on the list (plus nuts/seeds) - and I don't have the autoimmune condition, so go figure.
The good news? You don't need to count calories. That's right. It’s a diet that is easy to maintain, and with little to no negative side effects. There is no measuring or counting of calories or carbs. And there are a TON of delicious and nutritious foods to choose from.
Many proponents of the paleo diet even encourage experimentation by adding in a few of the (healthy whole) foods on their list of exclusions. High-quality dairy, white rice, or potatoes may be added from time to time with less restrictive adaptations.
That sounds too restrictive.
I'm laughing as I write this because most of you probably make paleo-friendly meals all the time without knowing.
Dinner can be any grilled meat or fish with a big serving of vegetables prepared anyway you like. Lunch can simply be leftovers, a hearty soup or stew, or fish/chicken on a salad with a side of olives or vegetable sticks. There are a ton of "bread" options is you want to make a sandwich including LIVE or coconut wraps.
Breakfast includes eggs, smoothies, muffins or even pancakes. Granted, that is a little trickier, but with the right ingredients (almond or coconut flour), you can make amazingly delicious and nutritionally dense "baked" items that may not be allowed on the Whole 30, but are A.O.K. by me.
Who should consider paleo?
Some of the research shows paleo can help with weight loss and belly fat
We recently coordinated a 5 Day Challenge following a paleo-inspired diet with 150 clients at the clinic. In one week, participants were able to dramatically curb their carb cravings and blast through their weight loss plateaus, all while feeling full. How nice is that?
DISEASE AND INFLAMMATION
It can improve risk factors for heart disease
Reduces overall systemic inflammation
Improves glucose tolerance
Reduces symptoms of some autoimmune diseases
GAS/BLOATING and GUT HEALTH
It is “gut-friendly” because it includes a lot of high-fiber foods (i.e. fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds), fermented foods (which contain gut-friendly probiotics), as well as being full of nutritious natural food
It eliminates refined sugar, something bad bugs thrive on
Naturally reducing refined sugars and flours, and increasing sources of fibre, lean protein and healthy fats is shown to be supportive for mental health
Fibre helps detox excess hormones though bowel movements
Lean proteins help fuel the development of healthy hormones
We have an internal skin as well as an external skin. If you have skin eruptions (acne, eczema, rosacea), this is worth considering as it works to improve the gut first (an internal skin), which will help balance our external appearance. In fact, rosacea is being increasingly linked with autoimmune disease, and therefore, worth paying attention to
It is also high in healthy fats, a key component in good skin health
If you react to gluten or lactose, this diet removes them both by eliminating all grains and dairy. With the removal grains and legumes, you also reduce your lectin intake, a hot topic in the weight loss community.
The paleo diet is based on what hunters and gatherers ate thousands of years ago. It is a whole-food based, nutrient-dense diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, seafood, and fermented foods.
Science has shown that it can help some people to lose weight, reduce risks of heart disease, improve glucose tolerance, and reduce inflammation.
At the very least, eliminating added sugars, processed, and refined foods are a great goal, even if you decide not to “go paleo.”
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