What Exactly Is The Paleo Diet?
You may have heard of the ‘Paleo Diet’ and you want to know what it is all about, no worries, we will try to explain it in the simplest way possible.
At first, the word Paleo may sound familiar. Yes, Paleo comes from the word Paleolithic or what is better known as the Old Stone Age. Coining the two words together, Paleo Diet is simply a diet plan that is patterned after the way primitive humans ate during a time where agriculture and livestock were still yet to be discovered.
Paleolithic humans consumed meat and vegetation in its most raw form. There was no concept of growing your own food crops and raising cattle for consumption. The earliest humans were hunters and gatherers. They followed their food everywhere. They learned to eat fruits and vegetables that were abundant in season and hunted boars or fish in forests and oceans just to fill their stomach with food. Because of this, Paleolithic humans were constantly on the move and were very active. They did not remain stagnant in one place and wait for their food to come to them. If they did this, during that age, they would surely starve thus, the end of the human race right there and then. This constant search for food has made them lean and fit and their bodies were trained to convert fat as fuel and energy, so as not to accumulate excess carbohydrates in the body.
Now that you have a clearer idea of our earliest ancestors’ way of eating, you may now have your own understanding of what a Paleo Diet is all about. The main principle behind the Paleo diet is to go back to the process-free, chemical-free, and oil-free way of eating. Simple as that. The goal is to eradicate processed foods, preservatives, chemicals, and vegetable oils that could be harmful to our health.
Paleo Diet, at its core, is more of a lifestyle than a diet itself. This kind of lifestyle focuses on eating whole raw natural food while avoiding all processed food we see in the market today. You see, times have changed all along and modern times have brought us modern food. This is what modern food is all about – processed, imbued with chemicals for longer shelf life, added preservatives and artificial flavoring to enhance its taste. And this is the kind of modern way of eating that the Paleo Diet wants to avoid. After all, humans were still able to eat at a time when agricultural evolution has not yet even emerged. After the agricultural evolution, that was the time when we knew how to cook our food and enhance its taste, thus came processed food.
For all those years that early humans ate whole natural food, we were hunters and gatherers. We were always chasing our food – hunted meat wherever they were abundant and gathered fruits when they were in season. Eventually, we transitioned from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to stationary farming which includes crop rotation and livestock utilization. The Agricultural Revolution came at around 10,000 years ago and introduced grains, such as bread and wheat into our diet. This changed the human diet dramatically.
Today’s modern diet contained big quantities of a substance called gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, and many cereals. Of course, gluten did not exist in the Paleolithic Period. Gluten is a substance that is like a glue – it holds food together and maintain their shape. It has been known that consuming gluten can inflame the gut wall and may cause nutrient deficiencies. Well-known celebrities like Kelly Ripa have famously adopted a gluten-free lifestyle. There has also been some theories, although not yet proven, that gluten may also cause certain kinds of cancers and heart diseases.
Another substance in our modern diet that is linked to certain health complications is lectin. Lectin can be found in grains. Lectins were found to be the root cause of many chronic illnesses and weight gain. They cause wear and tear in our gastrointestinal tract, making it very difficult and slow to heal. This sticky substance finds its way into the gut wall and starts doing damage by blocking vitamins and nutrients from entering the gut.
Let’s not forget about sugar. Sugar is present in almost anything we consume today. Overall, sugar is a harmless substance and in fact, our body needs sugar which undergo certain metabolical process for it to be converted into energy for our body. Excessive sugar in our body, though, can be a problem. Excessive sugar needs to be burned out but considering one aspect of modern times where everyone has become sedentary, eliminating that excess sugar has become quite the hard chore to do. Nowadays, people always sit around their couch watching television, toying with their phones, checking their social media, and watch the world go round behind and LCD screen. Modern way of living has made us lazy and stationary compared to that of the Paleolithic times. People did not move around the way they used to and thus, they don’t burn calories the way they used to. This becomes a big problem in regards to excessive sugar intake. Our sugar intake has become inversely proportional to the effort we do to eliminate it. We take too much sugar but do only so little to burn them out, thus it accumulates in our system leading to energy spikes and crashes, and related health problems like obesity, diabetes, and blood pressure issues. So all that sugar being accumulated in our system due to modern diet, which is already bad enough, isn’t even burned off because of our sedentary lifestyles.
One of the big myths that Paleo Diet has helped dismiss was the outdated notion that eating fat makes you fat. This was a big deal in the 80’s when everyone was so obsessed with high carbohydrate diet and a high calorie amount in the food they were eating. Almost every food in the market today has a low-fat or even a non-fat variant. However, one should not be fooled by those variants since nowadays, fat is replaced by sugar. Most of us are not aware that fat is a crucial nutrient when it comes to our health. Dietary fat is needed for an optimal, well-functioning and healthy body. In fact, the evidence shows that these healthy fats have a number of health benefits. They can help with weight loss, reduce the risk of heart disease and decrease inflammation. Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat.
It’s all the chemicals, preservatives and added sugar in our diets that lead to the weight gain, health issues, energy problems and more. These chemicals, preservatives, and added sugar are the byproducts of modern civilization. Because of our advanced technology, we have acquired the means to enhance our foods taste and shelf-life by using these chemicals. Too much of everything is not good. Fat, sugar, and calories are needed by our human body in order to function, but too much of them is not healthy anymore. This is the primary goal of the Paleo Diet – to go back to the prehistoric way of eating in which no chemicals, preservatives and food additives have not yet existed.