Despite being something of a new trend in eating, The Paleo Diet is old news. Like, millions of years old. Going Paleo (or ‘going primal’ as some call it) involves adopting the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors – hence the ‘Paleo’ (as in the prehistoric Paleolithic era) in the name.
The rationale behind the diet is that, although our digestion systems and physiognomy haven’t changed a great deal in the last 40,000 years or so, our diets have. Radically. And some of the most detrimental shifts have occurred in the last 200 years with the industrialisation of the human food chain.
Nowadays packaged, processed foods that are packed with refined carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup populate our supermarket shelves, and are consumed with often mindless, wild abandon. So often the nutritional value of processed supermarket stalwarts can be dubious at best, with added nasties like sugar, preservatives and common allergens featuring on many packaged foods’ ingredients lists.
The Paleo approach involves eliminating all these processed foods in favour of naturally available options – nuts and seeds, fruits, vegetables, and animal-based proteins like fish, eggs and meat.
Dr Loren Cordain, professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University, literally wrote the book on the Paleo diet. According to Dr Cordain’s site www.thepaleodiet.com, the gist of the eating plan involves:
Eating plenty of: Grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds, healthful oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado, coconut).
Eliminating: Cereal grains, legumes (including peanuts), dairy, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, salt, refined vegetable oil.
Many followers of the diet come to it from a desire to eat less processed foods or with a curiosity about eating according to a natural human diet (as in cavemen-in-the-wild style). Many followers also ‘go primal’ in order to naturally manage symptoms of gastro and autoimmune conditions. In fact, back in 1975 a gastroenterologist named Walter Voegtlin advocated a diet of ‘Stone Age Cuisine’ (similar to the Paleo Diet) to help treat patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Colitis and Crohn’s disease.
If you’re interested in exploring the Paleo diet further, here are some great resources to get you started:
The Beginner’s Guide to Paleo: This post on the Nerd Fitness blog has a fantastic breakdown of the diet’s principles, the effect of Paleo-friendly and -unfriendly foods on the body, and tips on what to eat all in one place (with some hilarious caveman Lego graphics!)
The Paleo Mom: Written by Sarah Ballantyne Ph.D., a scientist and mother, the Paleo Mom covers Paleo living from a health and family perspective. Sarah’s site features recipes and tips, as well as an account of how her switch to primal eating helped her combat IBS, acid reflux, psoriasis and a host of other immune and autoimmune conditions (and lose 120 pounds in the process.)