In the 40-plus years that I have been studying and experimenting with diets and dietary recommendations, I have come to believe that no diet or rigid set of recommendations is sustainable or even appropriate for everyone. Humans have complex biological systems that constantly change over time.
In my health coaching practice, I help clients listen to their bodies, experiment, and take the best from each dietary theory. Sometimes we need a therapeutic diet to heal, sometimes we need to figure out a maintenance diet, and other times we can experiment and play with the possibilities of a particular eating philosophy.
Eating Like a Caveman
The Paleo diet is one of the diets that I have studied extensively over the last several years. “Paleo” is short for Paleolithic and the theory behind this lifestyle is based on mimicking our ancient ancestors’ diets, who suffered from fewer chronic diseases than modern populations do. The basic premise strikes me as slightly flawed (because our food supply and environment are so different in modern times).
But if you’re considering a Paleo diet, here is some of the Good Stuff about its tenants:
Eat whole foods.
If food is not in its whole natural form, chances are that it has been refined and the nutrient content degraded, so the Paleo diet recommends whole, unrefined foods. When you eat food as provided by nature, it actually promotes health, healing, and immunity against future ailments. As the old adage says, “you are what you eat.”
Avoid modern, processed, and refined foods.
These include grains, pasteurized dairy products, industrial seed oils (like corn, cottonseed, soybean, canola, or rapeseed) and artificial or refined sugar and sweeteners–especially high fructose corn syrup. If it has to pass through a factory before it is edible for you, most likely it is an “edible food-like substance” rather than food. I agree with all of these Paleo “rules” except for the “no grains” part. Human beings have eaten grains since the dawn of civilization, so I am not convinced that they are toxic for us. I agree that there are some problems with many grains (namely, processing) but I am not convinced that absolute avoidance of grains is optimal for most of us.
Eat to maintain proper digestive function.
Your requirements for digestive function may be different from someone else’s depending on your constitution. You must determine which foods your body cannot tolerate and stop eating them. Some people can tolerate raw dairy and the occasional grain-based food. The ability to fight chronic and acute diseases begins in the gut. (For more on this, I recommend Clean Gut, by Alejandro Junger, M.D.)
Eat to maintain proper blood sugar regulation.
The amount of time it takes before your hunger kicks in again after a meal and how you feel (besides hungry) entering into your next meal are critical signs of how well your blood sugar levels are managed. If you are hungry every two or three hours and feeling shaky, weak, or starving entering each meal or snack, you are probably not eating the right balance of food. Figuring out how much protein, fat, and “good carbs” you should eat will help maintain well-balanced blood sugar throughout the day while comfortably eating every four to six hours.
Follow a plan that will help you reach your own personal health goals.
This can be different for everyone, but obviously a big part is eating healthy food and avoiding unhealthy food. If you’d like help articulating and reaching whatever your own health goes are, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free strategy session.
I will be blogging more in the future about what I like (and what I don’t like!) when it comes to the Paleo trend. Join our mailing list to be notified when I post new blogs. Look for a blog with my favorite Paleo granola recipe next week!
To your health,
P.P.S.: While I don’t agree with all the tenants of a strict Paleo diet, I do love skincare and cleaning products made of Paleo-friendly ingredients. Here’s my favorite beef tallow bar soap, made with wildcrafted herbs.