The paleo diet is one of the most googled diets of all time. Why? Well for one, it makes a killer weight loss diet. However, that’s not why I recommend it to clients. It is so much more beneficial than that.
If you’re struggling with fertility, I typically suggest a neo paleo diet. If you’re trying to get your autoimmune disease under control, I typically suggest the autoimmune paleo protocol. If you have any other nutritional concerns, I typically suggest some sort of modified paleo. Seriously, it’s not just another diet fad; paleo is here to stay.
What is Paleo?
First, let’s talk about what paleo is. It is short for Paleolithic, a nod from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. No that doesn’t mean you can’t eat foods that they didn’t eat then, but it’s more the idea of eating anti-inflammatory, nourishing foods. If you think about what our ancestors ate, it was lots of meat, plants, nuts and seeds. This is very much how the modern paleo diet is structured, with a focus on grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken, and organic produce. Grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar are out. While evidence suggests that oats existed during the Paleolithic era, they weren’t eaten in abundance. This was primarily due to the fact it wasn’t as simple as opening a canister of Quaker oats—it was a very labor-intensive process. Their grains weren’t highly processed like they are today, but were soaked, sprouted and fermented.
So why are nutritionists, much like myself, advocating for a paleo diet? Well, mainly because the cavemen ate the best foods around. This meant they ate in season (squash during winter, peas during summer, etc.), they ate foods that didn’t cause inflammation, they ate foods that were energizing, and they ate foods that were satisfying. Unfortunately today, our Standard American Diet is far from ideal. Produce travels an average of 1500 miles just to get to us, depleting the majority of their nutrients. Additionally, most meat on the grocery store shelves are filled with antibiotics, growth hormones, nitrates, and…well let’s just say conventional slaughterhouses aren’t the most humane. By choosing grass-fed or pasture-raised, you are getting a higher amount of Omega-3’s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and limited chemicals.
You don’t have to follow Paleo to a T
There are many articles floating around on the Internet claiming that paleo is actually dangerous because it cuts out entire food groups such as dairy, grains, and legumes. I disagree. All three are inflammatory, leading to leaky gut and wreaking havoc on your body—diabetes, heart problems, and cancer are all linked to inflammation. And let’s be honest, these three groups aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. The dairy industry has made a killing off of us for quite some time, leading many of us to believe that milk and cheese are ideal sources of calcium and vitamin D. Well that’s just not true. You can easily get calcium from plants (kale and watercress are excellent sources) and vitamin D from cod liver oil. If you must have dairy, opt for things like kefir, whole-fat yogurt, and grass-fed butter.
Grains are another no-no when eating paleo. They contain phyctic acid (considered an anti-nutrient that inhibits enzymes ), not to mention they are often grown in synthetic soil with genetic manipulation and chemical fertilizers. Not what you want to be ingesting, and not what our ancestors ate. However, if you still love your grains, Ezekial bread has some great sprouted options. Legumes are also off limits as they contain lectins which can wreak havoc on the body by damaging the intestinal lining. If you’re a bean lover, at least soak or sprout them first.
Still think that paleo is just a fad?
Our modern diet is laden with fast food, fake food that comes from a box, trans fats, sugars, and chemicals. Paleo is here to stay because it is a diet that rejects those things. It promotes health by increasing energy, lowering inflammation, and increasing nutrient-dense foods. So challenge yourself to eat more produce, opt for grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, and cut out those anti-nutrients that are harming your body
This post was written by Kira Whitham. Kira has a Master's in Health and Nutrition Education from Hawthorn University. She is the founder of A Nourished Life where she works with clients both one-on-one and in group sessions. She takes a functional approach to nutrition, working to uncover the root of the problem and taking bio-individuality into account, understanding that every person has a different nutritional need. She is also a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP). You can find more information about Kira and working with her on her website, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.