Even if you don’t know what the Paleo Diet is, chances are you’ve heard of it. Lots of people talk about it. Paleo Diet books are everywhere, including the one that started it all: The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Often you’ll hear different, even contradictory versions of this diet. Is the Paleo Diet beneficial? Does it really promote good health? People who are well informed about the Paleo Diet can answer those questions for you. But often, people pick up pieces of information and create their own diet.
To help you learn about the Paleo Diet, let’s look at the facts. We’ll start with the basic idea behind the Paleo Diet. Then we’ll consider which foods are in, which foods are out, and why. Then we can look at ways the Paleo Diet seeks to focus on health.
Once you know the facts, you can take a closer look, learn more, and decide if you want to incorporate a Paleo approach into your eating plan.
Think natural and wild
What is the Paleo Diet? Think natural and wild: the way our earliest ancestors ate. Hunting meat from wild animals and catching wild fish. Foraging for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds growing in the wild, in their natural state.
The idea is that our earliest ancestors took food straight from nature into their bodies. Their bodies easily digested and absorbed the nutrients from this food.
The problem with food technology
Then came modern farming techniques and advances in food technology. We changed our types of food. We raised meat animals differently, began to consume dairy products, and started planting and harvesting grain. Everything about our food changed. But our bodies never changed.
While cultivated food may seem natural because it comes from an animal or a plant, Paleo Diet advocates remind us that farming is a process we created. Our bodies are not genetically or chemically adapted to eating this way.
A return to natural eating
The Paleo Diet recommends we return to the way humans used to eat: wild-caught meat and wild-growing fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The Paleo Diet hopes to alleviate the stress on our bodies, by avoiding unnatural foods created by human technology.
Which foods are in?
Foods included in the Paleo Diet are foods that come straight from nature:
- Wild-caught fish or game
- Free-range, grass-fed beef
- Free-range poultry and eggs
- Healthy fats from natural foods
If you have trouble remembering this list, just think “hunter-gatherer” and the way food sources live and grow in the wild.
These more natural foods are considered easier to digest. A healthy digestive system leads to healthy metabolism and a body whose organs and systems are in balance and good health.
Which foods are out?
Foods avoided or minimized on the Paleo Diet include foods introduced or altered by human technology:
- Refined sugar
- Processed food
To remember this list, think cultivated, human-produced, factory-farmed, or processed foods.
These foods are avoided on the Paleo Diet because they are thought to cause digestive issues and metabolic stress. When metabolism is off balance, the body does not function efficiently, and health becomes compromised.
Health focus of the Paleo Diet
Proponents of the Paleo Diet recommend this natural way of eating to promote good health. Their concern is this: When we consume food we can’t digest easily, every system in our body reacts.
Cascade of problems
When our body gets out of balance, a cascade of problems begins, pushing us toward chronic illness:
- Toxins build up that our liver and kidneys can’t process.
- Undigested food becomes stored in fat cells.
- We become starved for nutrients.
- Our cells don’t function properly.
- Hormones flood our body systems.
- Organs wear out.
- Our immune system grows weaker.
- Inflammation takes over.
- Our cardiovascular system becomes strained and clogged.
- Our brains get foggy.
- We become chronically ill.
The benefit of nutrients
Individuals who follow the Paleo Diet hope to help their bodies recalibrate, as they begin to consume foods more easily digested. They look for foods that contain more nutrients in their natural state, without chemicals and processing. A greater concentration of pure nutrients can detoxify the body and reduce inflammation. The health benefit is two-fold:
Foods more naturally digested lead to greater nutrition and overall health. They bring lots of micronutrients to the cells of the body. These nutrients help organs and systems function smoothly.
Nutrients more easily absorbed from their natural state deliver healing properties to bodies that are stressed. As the body is cleared of toxins, as inflammation is reduced, and as cells are nourished, the body can be restored to good health.
Those are the facts
Those are the facts of the Paleo Diet. People that follow this diet desire to return to eating in a more natural way. Their hope is that more natural foods will bring more nutrients to the cells of their bodies, for optimal health.